SHIRLEY — The selectmen this week hosted Richard Montuori, MassDevelopment’s senior vice president for Devens operations, who was present to answer questions concerning the Devens disposition and its impact on Shirley.
“We are looking at 1,800 houses and that number does not include any houses at the environmental business zone or at the airfield,” said Montuori. “We have been focusing on scenario 2B that has been the direction of the Devens Disposition Executive Board. We have been meeting with the Devens residents, specifically with scenario 2B Devens would become a town.
“Originally we were looking at 2,300 houses,” he said. “Two hundred houses at the environmental business zone, 200 houses in the Shirley Village, approximately 400 houses at the circle [Salerno Circle] and the rest in Devens’ core.
“We have revised the plan down from the 2,300 and both the environmental business zone and the air field are part of the master planning study now and are excluded,” he said. “The way the 1,800 breaks down at this point is 250 houses in the Shirley village growth area, it should have 1,300 units in Devens’ core and the remaining houses in Salerno Circle. The 200 houses in Shirley break down into several types, including large, medium and small single-family units, townhouses and condos.”
“The problem being is that the new high school [in the MassDevelopment plan] sits in our retention pond and the playing field [in the MassDevelopment plan] sits in our detention area and our reserve parking, if we ever need it, and we would have to tear down two ball fields that cost over $75,000 and one football field that cost about $100,000,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with the number of houses that you want to put in Shirley, but we don’t know what the future of education is in Shirley yet. It just doesn’t work; it can’t work. There are the drainage issues and the destroying of the fields that we can’t afford to replace.”
“That’s fair,” said Montuori.
“Would you build the houses?” Shultz asked.
“MassDevelopment would be the landowner, and we would call in the builders,” Montuori said.
“Where will the tax revenue go?” asked Selectman David Swain.
“The tax revenue for this would be under the jurisdiction of the town as well as the governance,” said Montuori.
“If the formal position of the town of Shirley was that we wanted less houses, what would MassDevelopment do?” asked Chairman Chip Guercio. “Would they reallocate the rest of the houses to another part of Devens?”
“It would depend on how many houses and then we would revisit it,” said Montuori.
“You felt you needed 1,550 houses to sustain a town if it were to become a town,” said Shultz. “If Shirley wanted less houses would it impact MassDevelopment at that time?”
“If we have 1,550 we think it can be financially sustainable,” Montuori said. “It’s just a number that we arrived at when we went parcel by parcel, looking at density. We’re trying to establish a town here that is not only financially sustainable but also a viable town that’s walkable.”
“How long will it take to build all of these buildings?” Swain asked.
“It’s a 20-year plan that is going to be phased in,” said Montuori.
“We have a bylaw that dictates the number of houses that can be built in a year, would this fall under that?” asked Swain.
“My guess is that this would be handled by legislation,” said Montuori.
“When the three towns are voting on this, they are voting on a disposition that shows an agreed-upon zoning for a specific number of structures,” said Guercio. “If the final disposition is voted on and it shows 200 houses, than that is all that can be built?”
“Yes, that would be the cap,” said Montuori. “Is there a fear that if we come to a consensus of 200 houses in November , we would really build 400 houses? Because, that would not happen without another vote or a change in the zoning. We would be building out the core first and depending how the market is going, we will move from there. It is definitely a phased-in approach and definitely Grant Road is where we’re going to start.”
After questioning Montuori, the selectmen scheduled a public forum for Monday, Oct. 24 to review the disposition of Devens and its impact on Shirley.