The first two nights of Belmont's Town Meeting resembled the start of a vaudeville showcase: lots of warm up acts before the main headliner comes out to steal the show.
While many of the actions Town Meeting took this week will effect how Belmont is run, those votes were the preliminary sideshow before members take on Town Meeting's big act: attempting to bridge a looming fiscal shortfall in late May.
But while the most buzz created at Town Meeting were the anticipated $2 million override and reallocating funds to the school department, the amendments voted on over the first two nights, while not earth shattering, will be felt by residents and businesses in everyday ways.
Take, for example, dining out. As a result of this past week, residents will be able to enjoy meals on a sidewalk outdoors and, in a few years, get a drink at a greater number of Belmont eateries.
Restaurants can now provide seasonal seating "contiguous to" the restaurant with up to 20 seats without triggering the zoning laws parking requirements.
Town Meeting also amended a law to increase the number of liquor licenses in restaurants from three to 10 and decrease the minimum seating required at those establishments from 130 to 60.
Despite winning support from the Board of Selectmen and the Planning Board, a preliminary study called A Comprehensive Plan: "A Vision for Belmont: Mapping a Sustainable Future" was tabled by the members for later consideration.
While the Plan - a framework to guide decisions and set land use policies with a goal to preserve the quality of life as an economically and socially sustainable community- was not binding, critics said the measure should be set aside since a majority of Town Meeting had not yet read the plan and language in the amendment could be interpreted in troubling ways.
In other votes, Town Meeting:
- Did away with the town's antiquated Floodplain District and replaced it with a new overlay district.
- Replaced a hodge-podge of decades-old residential setback requirements that were created before Belmont had a zoning code for a uniformed rule for the entire town.
- Authorized the transfer of $325,000 from sales of Highland Meadow Cemetery lots into the cemetery's perpetual care fund.
- Increased the fee from $5 to $15 for each demand letter for delinquent taxes.
- Voted down a request from the Lexington-based Minuteman Career & Technical School to fund a $725,000 feasibility study on improvements to the school's building. Opponents successfully argued that it was too much money in these difficult times.
- Added new building regulations that will ensure that public safety radios can operate properly in theme.
- Allowed the town to send two estimated and two actual bill tax bills.