HARVARD – The Board of Selectmen held a public hearing to review the first draft of the Devens Disposition Memorandum of Understanding.
The 70-page MOU was prepared by a MassDevelopment attorney.
Although there were several disposition scenarios at the outset, only one made the final cut when it came to consensus, according to Selectman William Marinelli, who serves on the Devens Disposition Executive Board. Thus, the MOU is based on the 2B scenario in which Devens becomes a town with certain parcels returning to Ayer, Harvard and Shirley.
Among other form and function details, the draft MOU lists assumptions, conditions, co-opts and concessions involved in the town-building process. It also spells out who gets what.
The document is currently making the rounds among the stakeholders. The stakeholders are MassDevelopment, the Devens Enterprise Commission, Devens residents, and the towns of Ayer, Harvard and Shirley.
According to the executive board’s schedule, when all six stakeholders have had a chance to review and edit the document, presumably with public input, the MOU goes back to the executive board for a re-draft. The process then repeats. A ratified document is slated for August.
The final MOU will allegedly be used as a basis for legislation that will replace Chapter 498. Chapter 498 is the founding law that, along with the reuse plan voted in by Ayer, Harvard and Shirley in 1994, has governed Devens since the former military base was decommissioned and turned over to MassDevelopment more than a decade ago.
Last month, Harvard voters had their say on Devens’ disposition via nonbinding questions, first at the annual town meeting and then at the town election. Results were mixed. Basically, town meeting voters, by a small margin, said no to the idea, but voters at the polls, by a somewhat larger margin, said yes.
However, a majority of 51 percent voted no on a second ballot question that asked if they wanted jurisdiction back. Both questions were advertised as advisory, but some believed the town meeting vote had more clout.
Selectmen have been split on the issue, too. Some say the results clearly cut the path the town wants to take, while others have called for more time. But the 2B scenario is proceeding as planned and will be voted on again in November. This time, the votes will count.
If five of the six stakeholders agree, Devens is on its way to becoming a town. If there’s a stalemate, the process stops, according to MassDevelopment and the executive board.
At Tuesday’s hearing, which drew about 35 people, comments from the public highlighted the Devens divide. But for the most part it was a three-hour-plus editing session with the board working through the first 27 pages of the MOU – one page at a time – adding, deleting and making changes with input from the audience.
The hearing closed just after 11 p.m. It will continue at the next board meeting on May 2. The MOU, contained in the first 27 pages, had been covered. The final 43 pages are appendices including maps, schedules and analyses of issues addressed in the main document.