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Public Tells Designers What They Want And Don't Want In A New Underwood Pool

Designers now have an idea what will go into a new pool besides a diving board.

After two public meetings, a field trip and a community-wide survey, the designers now have a whole lot of ideas before them on about what residents want and don't want in a new Underwood Pool after attending the latest meeting of the Underwood Pool Building Committee on Thursday, Dec. 5, in Town Hall. 

Committee member Ellen Schreiber released the results of an online public input poll and was surprised by just the number of people taking the survey; 513. Schreiber said that was nearly 200 more participants than a paper and online questionnaire for Joey's Park, the new playground at the Winn Brook school which she helped manage its construction.

"That was much more than I expected," she said. 

And there was a lot of opinions on the respondents' view of the current and any future pool. 

On the bright side, nearly 90 percent of poll takers would likely become members of a new pool. And 93 percent said having a community pool was either "very important" or "important" to the residents. 

"Those numbers are huge. There is a great deal of support for having a pool," said Schreiber. 

But the questionnaire also indicated that a large majority also said the existing pool is not serving the entire community, she said. 

Generally, respondents felt the pool is a friendly community oriented space where you can cool off and is a safe place to bring kids. 

But on the flip side, residents also saw the pool as not serving all ages or constituencies in the town: it's too shallow for some, the bottom cuts everyone's feet, adults have no area just to swim. And, of course, there's on diving board.

And Schreiber didn't spend that much time discussing the dislike and near disgust residents have for the current Bath House. 

"Let's just say there was a lot of colorful language," said Schreiber.

So what do most people want in a new pool? Besides the diving board, it would be nice to have more attractions; sprinklers, a slide, laps for swimming, and just a place in the water adults can hang out. Respondents also want features outside the water including more and better seating, a dedicated eating area and perhaps a snack bar.

It was also noted that more people would like to see a seperate area for the youngest members, the diapered kids, as they are prone to "accidents" which can close the current pool for several hours to clean.

"How many people now get frozen out of the pool after an accident?" said Committee Vice Chair Adam Dash. 

And it goes without saying that the bath house should be modern, open and clean with more showers and bathrooms, better chaining rooms including family changing rooms and greater privacy, according to potential pool members.

But for many residents, the pool should become more like an outdoor community area, where families can come for the evening, have dinner, and play in the water and on the grass. It should be more than a place to "cool off" for an hour but a place to lounge after work with later hours of operations. 

"So my question to the design team is, what do you come out with this information?" pondered Anne Paulsen, committee chair. 

For lead designer Thomas Scarlata, principle with the Boston firm Bragmann Hendrie + Archetype, the reoccurring theme from all the meetings and the survey was a new pool of generally the same size and shape of the original but splitting it up into two pools – one for smaller kids and a deep end pool with a diving board and lap lanes.

"We have a good sense what you want and what it will take to accomplish it," said Scarlata. He said already on his list includes a diving board and a slide which will require about 12 feet of deep water along with some swim "regiment" such as laps or an area for water-based exercise program.

But Schreiber said the survey and responses at the public meeting indicates residents don't want "emerging" swimmers – children who haven't passed the "deep end" test who are between four to ten – "stuck with the little kids." 

Paulsen retorted that whatever pool design is presented to the public "will not satisfy everyone. The whole idea of a pool is that you need rules on who can be where safely," she said.

Dash also brought up the need for the committee and the design team to stay well within its current $4.5 million budget.

With $2 million being committed by the Community Preservation Committee for the project, the committee will need to convince the Board of Selectmen to approve a $2.5 million debt exclusion vote that will take place on Town Election, April 1.

"We can have a wish list but we can't do it all," he said.

"I'm comfortable with the budget," said Scarlata. "We will come back with designs that stay within the numbers." 

"That makes me feel not so anxious," said Paulsen as the committee is scheduled to present schematic designs and an estimate to Selectmen on Jan. 24. 

In addition to the pool, the designs will include working with the residents of Cottage Street which abuts the pool and the playground on placement of the bath house and installing a sidewalk on the pool side.

Parking will soon become a serious issue as the Planning Board will have to OK any new building or construction on the site, noting that the minimum number of vehicle spaces required for the new pool will be discussed.

Currently, there is less than a dozen spaces on Cottage Street that services the pool; most people park on Concord Avenue or walk to the facility that services more than 600 residents on a hot day. 

The committee will be holding a public presentation on Jan. 27 meeting jointly with the Selectmen, the Capital Budget, Warrant and Community Preservation committees to discuss the pool.
Lee Adams December 06, 2013 at 08:49 PM
Once again the “I want” Special Interests are at it again. Committee Member Ellen Schreiber states “… nearly 90 percent of poll takers would likely become members of a new pool. And 93 percent said having a community pool was either "very important" or "important" to the residents.” Let’s think about this and break down these numbers. Ms. Schreiber states 513 people took the online survey with 93% of these wanting a new pool. This makes 477 people of the poll takers want a new pool. Belmont has approximately 25,000 residents. The 477 people who want a new pool make up about 1.9%. I don’t use the Underwood Pool since I prefer to swim in lakes or the ocean staying away from all the chemicals used to treat the pool. Developing the Underwood site with new homes will provide long term benefits everyone in the Town and not squander money, the Town lacks, for the less than 2% of the Special Interests who want a new pool. A developed Underwood site will provide financial resources for the Town through new property taxes which can be used to maintain our strong educational system; provide public services (police, fire and ambulance services); fund capital projects; allow the town to maintain its decaying infrastructures which in is disrepair; help the town pay for its $240-million debt obligations; and most important, help control runaway property taxes which unfairly burdens our residents on fixed incomes. I'm voting NO.
Franklin Tucker (Editor) December 06, 2013 at 09:40 PM
FYI: the land the pool and playground is located was granted to the town in 1911 by the Underwood Family as recreation space for the benefit of the children of Belmont. It is unlikely that any activity other then a pool or playground would past legal muster.
Lee Adams December 07, 2013 at 12:15 AM
Thank you for the information. I was unaware of that. I'm still going to vote NO and will education others to vote NO as well for any public money to support a new pool that benefits less then 2% of the Town - the small vocal Special Interests. I guess we'll a nice empty lot to look at for a while.

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