Recent discussions in the host towns, and Harvard’s split votes between 1A and 2B, should give the selectmen and town administrators ample reasons to request a delay in rushing the disposition process. The votes and discussions in all three towns and the Devens community should focus attention back to their constituents. Let’s eliminate the prevailing steamroller and return to the real consensus-building that the Devens Disposition Executive Board voted to adopt two years ago. I join the requests before the Board for a six-month delay in the process as being reasonable and realistic.
Although either scenario can work, we should play this out on a level field. It is time to bring the study of both scenarios up to equal status for fair comparisons. We should also address the role of MassDevelopment. (This may not be New Hampshire, but "Live Free or Die" has a nice ring to it.) Aside from choices 1A and 2B, there is strong debate regarding the loss of local autonomy and jurisdiction for returned lands; and the MassDevelopment mandate seems flawed.
If our leaders continue to solidify their agendas, despite criticism on the street, it is time to challenge the process. This is especially true since the issue involves a complete restructuring of our region, affecting our quality of life as a community of towns and the future for our children.
The development of returned town land, rather than our acceptance of a ‘Big Brother’ style for imposed planning and management, should be returned to our capable local land-use planners. This would be a realistic goal during a six-month cooling off period. The selectmen should hear the increasingly vocal concerns of their constituents and explain to MassDevelopment that its need for a sustained income stream is not in the best interests of the towns and, in fact, politically is not in the best interests of the state.
The towns have the internal capability to plan and manage developments in step with the ongoing need for housing. MassDevelopment must be persuaded to get real and follow its mandate as steward of Devens, in the best interest of the state and the towns. This can be achieved while assuring steady growth of housing, affordable units and industrial/commercial growth within the Legislature’s objectives for Devens and the towns.
In my observation, there is a clear disconnection between our decision-makers and those they assume are following their lead. This can doom their march toward a viable disposition solution and the Board would be well advised to take a six-month pause in the deliberations.