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Revival plan for Belmont's South Pleasant Street

Posted by Derek McLean  July 13, 2011 08:53 AM

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The Belmont Planning Board is considering changes to the zoning of South Pleasant Street, in an effort to attract new businesses to the area.

There could be a decision on the zoning changes at the upcoming fall Town Meeting.

“With some of the changes in ownership and some of the properties for sale, the town should really do something to encourage redevelopment,” said Jay Szklut, Belmont Planning and Economic Development Manager. “Is the area too restrictive? Could it be opened up a little bit more? Could you encourage redevelopment to try to increase the tax space?”

Thomas Younger, Town Administrator said zoning changes could include increases in building height restrictions and mixed use of businesses on a particular site. “There are a number of ideas of how the area could improve and entice businesses to go there,” he said.

The Planning Board is looking at whether changes would make it easier for retail businesses to open up on the street.

Younger said that with zoning changes and Belmont’s allowance of liquor licenses, the street could be attractive to restaurants.

“We are looking forward to seeing what the town of Belmont comes up with regarding rezoning,” said Adam Tocci, Manager of Waverly Landscapes Associates.

Tocci and his brother Paul are lifelong residents of Belmont. Paul owns three adjacent properties on South Pleasant Street including Waverly Landscapes, the vacant former Dodge dealership lot, and a 47-year-old carwash that was built and passed down by their father, Paul Sr.

“There is a lot of potential along that road because it is one of the only roads in Belmont that does not have any residential abutters,” Tocci said. “We are hoping that any zoning will be as friendly as possible for its business development.”

Tocci said with the zoning changes, he and his brother would redevelop their properties. “How we would do it would depend on the zoning,” he said. “We have had multiple developers approach us over the years. But the question is, what is the zoning going to allow? Will it be economically feasible to redevelop the property or will it just continue going status quo?”

Tocci said that increasing building height limits is the most important zoning change the town could make. “To make a project feasible, you need to go up in height and in the past the town has been very reluctant to allow that.”

Szklut said South Pleasant Street was intended to primarily support its automotive oriented businesses including gas stations and car dealerships. “It was actually a district that did not prohibit, but did not encourage retail stores at the time it was put in place,” he said. “Individuals thought retail stores would compete with the automotive uses and that’s where we wanted the automotive uses to be.”

Szklut said there have several public forums for residents to comment on their ideas to make the street more attractive for businesses. “It is an interactive process that involves the community, the Planning Board and the Planning Department,” he said.

The town has asked the Tocci brothers to put forth a rezoning proposal, but past failed proposals from developers have discouraged them from doing so.

“Ultimately it’s the town that comes up with a decision for what they are going to allow and not going to allow,” said Tocci. “So I would rather have them put forth what the zoning is going to be, rather than waste time and money. The ball is in their court.”

Derek McLean can be reached at dbmclean1@gmail.com.

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