The Jan. 21 Harvard Post reported, “The Devens Disposition Board (DDEB) coordinating committee presented a report to the full board proposing that it approve the Scenario 2B disposition model.” Scenario 2B would create a new town of Devens and return governance of certain outlying parcels to Ayer, Harvard and Shirley. DDEB, the article stated, voted to endorse the report, with two dissenters, with the intent of forwarding it to the stakeholders for further input and approval. I, by the way, was one of the two dissenters.
Chapter 498 of the Acts of 1993, which is the guiding state legislation for the redevelopment of Devens, provided for a period of up to 40 years for intelligent, effective redevelopment. On or before July 1, 2033, Chapter 498 states, MassDevelopment, the DEC and the three towns are to submit a report to the legislature and the governor “recommending a permanent government structure…” Planners and legislation drafters in the early 1990s understood the complexities and time-consuming nature of the issues and problems to be solved.
In spite of the above, MassDev. has worked to put disposition on a fast track and has come up with a study, if one can call it that, with two governmental structure options: Scenario 1A, which would return governance to Ayer, Harvard and Shirley; or Scenario 2B that creates the new town of Devens. From the get-go, and for obvious reasons, MassDev. has favored Scenario 2B and to get its way it uses all the tools of a powerful, well financed real estate developer: financial deals, intimidation, ego stimulation, political end-runs, whatever it takes. And they are good at it. Shirley gets all its land back. (They come out exactly the same under either scenario). Ayer negotiates major concessions — e.g., North Post and major improvements to MacPherson Road. Devens residents get a variety of goodies. But Harvard, the town with the most land by far, and the best land by far, and maybe that tells the story, gets the proverbial shaft.
A primary reason for Harvard’s poor position is the chaotic, confused and self-serving disposition planning process MassDev. and a few, very few, local officials have put into play. Chaos and confusion enable MassDev. to reach its objectives, whereas it discourages and/or limits interest and participation by the average resident. Unlike the active, organized, intelligent Devens planning process in the mid 1990s, current disposition planning lacks cohesion, defined goals and objectives, and specificity. A good example of what I am saying is to look at the “Disposition Elements,” sourced from the “Stakeholder Working Group of the DDEB’s Coordinating Committee,” and make sense of it. I defy you.
And why a November 2006 disposition vote? It is clearly not to Harvard’s benefit, so why work toward it. Before Harvard votes on disposition, we need a much clearer picture, understanding and agreement on housing, transportation and traffic, water use and protection, contamination cleanup, landscape impacts, recreation, permanent open space delineation, and a host of other important issues. Otherwise, Harvard faces serious, and adverse impacts in the future. And any agreements with MassDev. must be legal, written and airtight, for they have shown a talent for not following through on promises.
The clear winner in an early November 2006 vote is MassDev. Signs are clear. They get out of the strictures of Chapter 498 and the Reuse Plan. They get the towns, especially Harvard, out of their hair. They have a clear line-of-sight to develop Devens as they see fit.
Under Scenario 2B what’s to stop them?
Devens is their company town for the next 20 years, which as the major landowner is great for their bottom line.
The clear loser in an early November 2006 vote? It’s Harvard, of course.