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Devens Committee formally endorses ‘2B’ proposal

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DEVENS — At the conclusion of a second public forum on Jan. 30, Devens Committee (DC) members unanimously endorsed a disposition alternative this week to form a town of Devens, with property returning the three host communities.

Referred to as scenario 2B, the disposition alternative is one of eight originally developed. It was forwarded by a stakeholders working group when, according to forum facilitators, it became apparent no other would garner as much support.

The 3-year-old DC represents the interests of Devens residents to any and all committees and boards formed by Chapter 498. Devens residents are one of six stakeholders in the future disposition of the former Army base.

“We (Chapter 498) didn’t want one stakeholder to hold things up in any attempt for unanimity,” said former DC Chairman David Winters.

Two residents attended the Jan. 30 public meeting. Between 45 and 50 had attended the first session on Jan. 21 hosted by MassDevelopment.

As in the first, this week’s session was broken into segments presented by DC members. Full details can be viewed at www.devensdispostion.org or www.devenscommittee.org.

The Devens Disposition Executive Board (DDEB), created by Chapter 498 mandate, endorsed scenario 2B in a 12 to 2 vote. The disposition timetable calls for stakeholder endorsement by Feb. 16. The scenario 2B presentation is currently being brought before each host town.

The Feb. 16 endorsement will lead to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) the DDEB’s Governance Subcommittee has been working on. It is hoped that stakeholders will adopt it by April 6.

The MOU would become part of a revised Reuse Plan and draft legislation required by Chapter 498. The revised plan will be drafted by Sasaki Associates and MassDevelopment lawyers, and will undergo reviews and public hearings concluding on July 6.

With shareholder approval, the revised plan would be submitted for inclusion in the November ballot by Aug. 3.

Answering a resident’s question, Boucher said if, after 15 years, zoning constraints present in an accepted Reuse Plan revision would disappear if MassDevelopment has not completed development as scheduled.

MassDevelopment has provided $500,000 to enable DDEB subcommittees to develop consensus, he said. If one stakeholder didn’t vote for it, the stakeholder is entitled to develop a minority report to be sent to legislature.

Winters led an explanation of the genesis of the Devens Committee.

“We have representation without taxation,” he said. “I could go to Harvard town meeting and vote for an override knowing I wouldn’t have to pay for it. Lots of residents felt powerless going along for the ride. It didn’t sit well with a lot.”

“That, and a buildout a lot bigger than thought of from the original documents,” said Boucher.

“When disposition started there were no roles for residents,” said DC member Robert Eisengrein. “We’re sort of a quasi Board of Selectmen. With this many issues of boards, etc., there was a lot to agree on.”

Boucher described the details of the 2B scenario in which Ayer would be granted the North Post area, Shirley would obtain the area north of the Nashua River, and Harvard would receive Barnum Road instead of Salerno Circle because of its industrial base.

Salerno, he said, would have required Harvard construct an access road across the railroad tracks which would have carried a significant cost. Harvard didn’t want it for this reason, among others.

At least 200 of the 1,150 new houses planned will be for residents over age 55. This would bring the total to 1,800 residences including existing houses. The outparcels would go back to the towns by 2010. Devens would be incorporated as a town by 2015.

Each stakeholder has key elements it wants which were outlined by Boucher.

Devens, for example, wants sustainability by the year 2015, construction of a kindergarten through 12th grade school system, debt free transfer of municipal buildings, adherence to a 10-point development plan, a transition agreement with MassDevelopment and a traffic plan.

DC member Thomas Kinch gave an overview of housing plans for segments of Devens including Grant Road, Willard Heights, Buena Vista, downtown, Davao Circle, and Salerno Circle.

Devens Education Advisory Committee (DEAC) Chairman Kathy Bernklow explained the genesis of the planned Cornerstone Essential Elementary School, the status of a contract search for a superintendent, a partner for seventh- to 12th-grade students, and the desires expressed by residents at a recent education public session.

Public comment and input for the 2B scenario will be gathered in public sessions held from May to August.