SHIRLEY -- During a duly posted but brief meeting Tuesday night, two Economic Development members talked informally about items on the agenda with others in the room. They did not, however, take any action or even officially convene, since the gathering lacked a quorum.

Others at the table included Selectman Bob Prescott and former Chairman Enrico Cappucci, who might be called an "emeritus" member now, having recently resigned from the committee to run for town moderator.

Sketching the status of projects in progress and initiatives begun during his tenure, Cappucci said that Dollar General, a national chain that was eyeing a parcel off Lancaster Road by the old airport for a 9,000-square-foot store, has pulled out.

According to Cappucci, the prospect looked promising until recently. But the company official EDC was dealing with walked away when it looked like requirements set by Nashoba Area Boards of Health to develop the site would be too costly, he said. Specifically, a retaining wall would have to be constructed in order to build there due to the high water table. The company found a site in Fitchburg instead, he said.

The good news is that EDC is brewing another deal with a local contractor who wants to build an optical manufacturing facility on another parcel in the area, Cappucci continued.

The Lancaster Road area is one of two target locales EDC has focused on, the other being the Village Growth area off Hospital Road, which is within town borders on Devens land and under the jurisdiction of MassDevelopment.


Cappucci said the Village Growth vision seems remote now, since it looks like the state agency aims to retain control of Devens until at least 2033 and apparently has its own plans for the area, known as the Shirley housing area in Fort Devens days.

But the optical plant looks like a go so far, Cappucci said, and the proposed 20,000-square-foot facility, with about 351 employees, could bring new jobs as well as revenue to town.

Before packing up to go, the group scanned a map showing parcels of land on and around Great Road (Route 2A) that might be open for future commercial, industrial or residential uses, perhaps including cluster development.

They noted, however, that any proposals along those lines would call for zoning changes or creation of an overlay district, with Town Meeting approval required either way.

Conversation was more academic than strategic, but the consensus was that the process by which land becomes available for certain types of development should be examined to see whether and how it might be restructured to attract businesses.

EDC was established for that reason. Charged with bringing in new development and $1 million in added revenue over 10 years, it's unclear clear how that goal can be reached without a willingness on the part of town officials as well as Town Meeting to consider making changes if necessary. Otherwise, the tax burden will continue to fall on homeowners to provide enough revenue to support municipal and public safety services and fund the town's portion of the Ayer-Shirley Regional School District.