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DDEB group calls for more time re: DevensDDEB group calls for more time re: Devens

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EVENS — While the process to determine the long-term future of Devens under the Devens Disposition Executive Board (DDEB) appears to be moving toward one all-inclusive vote in November, at least one group feels that is not enough time.

That position was taken by the DDEB Land Use and Open Space subcommittee on Jan. 24 when it voted to recommend that the final disposition vote take place no earlier than spring 2007.

Under the scenario, a November vote would determine whether Devens will become a town. A later vote would determine the specific reuse plan amendments and development agreements for the out-parcels, said subcommittee Chairman and Shirley resident Heidi Ricci.

While the group supports where the process is going, Ricci said it is concerned that there is insufficient time to settle and publicly review the myriad of outstanding question marks within the tight schedule required for a November vote.

The new reuse plan would include extensive zoning modifications at Devens as well as set development agreements with MassDevelopment for areas where jurisdiction would return to the towns. Ricci cited those reasons in her motion as cause for more in-depth review.

Ricci hopes to make that recommendation to the DDEB on Feb. 16. While she does not know how they will response, she said there are others who agree with the subcommittee.

“I think more and more people are thinking along these lines,” she said.

The recommendation was one of two approved by the subcommittee last week as feedback on the 2B disposition proposal currently before the DDEB.

The proposal, which was endorsed by the DDEB in January, would establish a new town and have jurisdiction of certain out-parcels return to the host communities.

The subcommittee voted to support that plan, pending two conditions. First, the open space preservation plan for Devens must be completed. Second, consensus must be reached on development plans for the North Post and Shirley Village Growth out-parcels.

Without a clear idea of how much develop-able land is available, she said it was hard to gauge how dense it would be. She also said details have been sparse on the percentage of multi-family units in MassDevelopment’s 300-unit target.

“I find it very difficult as a local resident to know if this proposal is acceptable or needs to be modified until I know the density of what they are talking about,” she said. “I feel the planning is so incomplete it’s difficult to say if I support the plan.”

Regarding open space, Ricci said a revision of the group’s preservation plan has been on hold since June, awaiting MassDevelopment’s response to public comment.

In June, Ricci was one of several committee members concerned that the revision commissioned by MassDevelopment was too vague on open space protection, and submitted concerns over it.

Past issues with open space were cited by Land Use Subcommittee member and Harvard resident Larry Finnegan.

Referring to the original reuse plan, Finnegan cited frequent promises leading up to the vote from MassDevelopment that one-third of Devens would be designated legally protected open space.

MassDevelopment has maintained that legal protection was in reference to local zoning. However, Finnegan, Ricci and other like-minded individuals have maintained that stronger measures, such as conservation restrictions, were the intent.

It is an example of how the Devil can be in the details, said Finnegan, and how understanding how reuse has been subtly modified over the years.

“It’s a classic example of what’s gone wrong in this process,” he said.

Finnegan supported the vote for more time, noting the schedule for disposition has shrunk from 30 years to three months in the past year.

He said the towns were rushed to judgment 10 years ago on the reuse plan and should not make that mistake again.

“Once this vote is made, it’s forever,” he said. “Doesn’t it make sense to do it right?”

The definition of legally protected open space has been the cause of disputes with MassDevelopment for some time, said Ricci. Her intent was to avoid having those disputes develop again.

“My purpose here is to avoid future disputes,” she said. “I want to have the details laid out so there are no questions or misunderstandings down the road.”