By Thatcher Kezer

New England summer traditions include fried clams, Cape Cod traffic and Red Sox games without the threat of freezing rain. This year, Devens and its neighbors will combine our well-deserved warm season with another New England staple: town meeting.

On June 8, the towns of Ayer, Harvard and Shirley will hold a Super Town Meeting for residents and the Devens community to vote on four important changes to the Devens Zoning By-laws. These changes will work to preserve and protect Devens open space and to address housing and health needs of seniors in the area. Please consider voting yes for all four of these changes.

The proposed zoning changes will benefit the Nashoba Valley region as a whole for generations to come. The four questions in their final form incorporated many of those comments into the proposed changes.

You can do your part by:

* Voting YES on Question One to add much-needed senior housing to the region. The passage of Question One would allow for up to 120 units of much-needed senior housing in the Shirley Village Growth I district to serve the aging population of the three towns, the Devens community, and the region. The town of Shirley and the Shirley Economic Development Committee initially proposed this concept as senior housing would spur economic activity in the area. Market studies, developer interest and inquiries from local seniors show there is significant demand for senior housing in the region.


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* Voting YES on Question Two to improve access to health care. The passage of Question Two would allow for small-scale healthcare uses like doctors' offices in the Shirley Village Growth I district to support the needs of the proposed senior housing and provide enhanced access to medical care. The type of medical facilities allowed was limited in order to compliment rather than compete with existing medical facilities and doctors' offices in the area.

* Voting YES on Question Three to make Devens greener. The passage of Question Three would permanently protect Rogers Field (Fort Devens' historic parade ground and home to 13 soccer/lacrosse fields) from development to ensure their use for future generations; rezone and restore a portion of the Willow Brook corridor as open space; and allow for a modest expansion of Devens' award-winning zero-energy neighborhood at Adams Circle.

* Voting YES on Question Four to improve the region's economy. The passage of Question Four would repurpose unused land at the southern end of Grant Road to allow for the expansion of an adjacent zone of business uses to attract major biotech and R&D employers.

* Throughout this process, MassDevelopment has received considerable and thoughtful feedback from the towns of Ayer, Harvard, and Shirley and the Devens community.

Visit http://courbanize.com/devens-zoning/ for more information about the proposed zoning changes and the upcoming Super Town Meeting including the meeting locations. For questions about the changes, please feel free to contact Ed Starzec at estarzec@massdevelopment.com or 617-330-2000 or me at tkezer@massdevelopment.com or 978-784-2933.

Your support of these proposals would create economic growth, protect critical open space and provide additional housing options for seniors in the Nashoba Valley. Before you enjoy the beaches and hills of a Massachusetts summer, please consider participating in this storied democratic practice and voting YES on all four questions on June 8.

As Senior Vice President of Devens, Thatcher Kezer serves as the lead staff person of MassDevelopment in Devens with oversight of its Departments of Public Safety (including Fire and Police), Public Works, Recreation, Utilities and the economic revitalization of the former Army base.