Last week the Belmont School Committee and the School Department were faced with a Hobson’s Choice. They had a decision to make, but there really was no viable set of alternatives. To build the proposed new Belmont Library on the site currently planned, the School Department would need to transfer a playing field to the Town; and the Town in Town Meeting would then need to transfer the land to the library board. However, without a viable alternative for replacing the lost field, the School Department and School Committee had no choice but to reject the transfer motion.
The Town has over the past two years explored several options for replacing the lost field from conversion of the Concord Avenue incinerator site to the Underwood Park and Pool. None of the options emerged as practical. Twenty-four hours prior to the vote, there emerged a proposal to build a comparable field by taking part of the existing high school parking lot and some of the tennis courts. While the proposal is imaginative, I personally doubt it is viable. It would sacrifice land and play space in active current use and does not take into account the feasibility study for renovations at Belmont High School.
All leaders of the Belmont Public Schools genuinely wish for a 21st-Century library for the Town, one that students and citizens alike would embrace. The Belmont Public Library has one of the highest usage rates in the area, and the current building is simply inadequate, and renovation is prohibitive. The long-term solution must embrace a new library building, but the quest for usable land space and Town agreement upon that space is the critical first next step.