HARVARD -- The use of a Super Town Meeting to address MassDevelopment's proposed zoning changes to Chapter 498, the governing statute in Devens, just moved closer to reality.
Now, it only needs a date.
The Joint Boards of Selectmen met in Harvard March 26 and heard from Ed Starzec, the director of land entitlements for MassDevelopment, who had collected comments from the hearings on the zoning changes held in Ayer, Devens, Shirley and Harvard.
On the first change, which would bring senior housing to the Shirley Village Growth District I, Starzec said he received four comments: that it should be affordable; that Shirley is well below the state-mandated 10 percent affordable-housing number; that senior housing residents could form a voting bloc and dominate Shirley Town Meeting; and that the appropriate place for senior housing in Devens is Vicksburg Square.
As a response, Starzec said MassDevelopment modified the zoning language to include a 25 percent affordable component. Regarding the voting bloc, he said the senior housing residents would pay their taxes to MassDevelopment, and so going to Shirley Town Meeting wouldn't make sense.
Also, the town itself approached MassDevelopment about senior housing, Starzec said, noting that the proposal is the result of a couple of years of work with the Shirley Economic Development Committee and other groups in town.
Finally, he said MassDevelopment has struck out twice at Vicksburg Square.
Dave Swain, a selectman in Shirley, said the project would "significantly help" the town get its affordable-housing numbers up.
And Ayer Selectman Gary Luca said it would be a boost to the area as a whole.
On the second zoning change, which would allow for health-care uses in the Shirley Village Growth District I, Starzec said he heard concerns about hospitals and health-care offices fleeing Ayer and Harvard and heading to Devens. He said MassDevelopment decided to remove "hospital" from allowed uses. Regarding the offices, he said Devens has a noncompete clause, meaning MassDevelopment can't go out and poach businesses from other municipalities.
"There's a fair amount of transparency," he said.
Starzec is planning to have a conversation with Sal Perla, president of the Nashoba Valley Medical Center, to assuage any concerns he may have.
After that, MassDevelopment will finalize the language of the proposal and then hold a public hearing on April 9.
For zoning change three, which would undertake two zoning swaps that would allow residential development of the former Adams Circle neighborhood, as well as protection of valuable adjacent environmental and historical resources like Rogers Field, Starzec said the one comment they received was that there's already enough residentially zoned land in Devens.
His answer: The Adams Circle neighborhood is half-completed.
Harvard Selectman Lucy Wallace called the proposal sensible, noting that protecting Rogers Field "is very important."
Starzec said the final zoning change would rezone a portion of the southern end of the Grant Road district to allow for appropriately buffered office, light industrial and research-and-development-type uses, similar to those in the innovation technology business district. He heard concerns about environmental impact and about industry being too close to the Grant Road neighborhood.
He said there shouldn't be any environmental impacts, and there are a lot of buffers, including trees, that would separate the neighborhood from industry.
At the end of his remarks, he suggested that the JBOS consider having a Super Town Meeting before school gets out.
JBOS Chairman and Harvard Selectman Ron Ricci said members will get their town administrators together and pick a date, which could be around Memorial Day or during the first few weeks of June.
"We're going to honor their request for Super Town Meeting," Ricci said. "Next week, we'll have a date on it."