Though the all-important ratification vote on the future of Devens is in November, a multitude of decisions are being made now about what will go into that ballot question.
Suggestions that the public doesn’t know enough to make that decision have been gaining volume in the past month. Many of the decisions involving Devens have already been made with the options for voters being whittled down to a precious few.
The other hue and cry being heard with increasing frequency is — What’s the rush? Laws governing the former base allow until 2033 for final disposition of Devens.
We think the rush might coincide with the governor’s race. A new governor will be taking over. What will the wish for Devens be?
If Kerry Healey is elected we expect she will continue Romney’s current course. But if not, the present strategy of using Devens to site some 1800 homes might not be viewed as the economic panacea now claimed.
There are a great many who argue that it’s not 1800 homes the area needs but the commercial and industrial space Devens offers.
The argument that the state needs affordable housing might not be answered by plopping 1800 homes here. How affordable will they be? Is it homes the state needs or jobs?
And if 1800 families come to Devens, will the state be on hand to make sure their needs are met?
At discussions held in Harvard, one resident asked if that town chooses to take back its land, which comprises most of Devens, must the town take the houses MassDevelopment plans as well? He was told that that scenario is likely.
At a meeting held in Ayer last week, Devens chief Rick Montuori said that no matter what voters decide, the 1,800 homes will be part of Devens’ future.
Last time we checked, there was a 282-housing unit cap at Devens, which can only be removed by a super town meeting of Ayer, Harvard and Shirley or an act of the Legislature.
The current plan of the disposition process is to have that super town meeting vote this fall and then approach the Legislature with a recommendation that five out of the six Devens stakeholders (Ayer, Shirley, Harvard, MassDevelopment, Devens residents, and the Devens Enterprise Commission) agree on.
It would seem, however, that the deed is done, the decision made.
The fact is, as one astute Harvard voter pointed out, local voters are being asked to make decisions based on incomplete information. How much say do local residents really have when their told that no matter what they do, 1800 homes at Devens will be part of it. At a meeting in Devens last year, Lt. Gov. Healey said Devens would be the 353rd town in Massachusetts when no such decision had been made. Had it?
”I think you lose a big part of your negotiating position when you get on a train when you don’t know where it’s going,” the Harvard voter said.
In any case, it’s clear that MassDevelopment’s task of lobbying the Legislature becomes much easier if the towns sign off on it.
The towns should not been cajoled into lightly abandoning that leverage.