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SHIRLEY — The town hosted a second Devens Disposition Executive Board information night “in preparation for some important votes,” said moderator Paul Pryzbyla.

“It’s for you, the townspeople of Shirley, to learn more about the process of the disposition (of Devens),” he said on Aug. 17.

Disposition planning participant, Heidi Ricci, said that given the allowed timeframe, the deal currently on the table is the best Shirley is going to get.

Community turnout was less than the first information forum held at Town Hall in June, which was surprising considering the opposition the executive board has reportedly faced in two other stakeholder towns, Ayer and Harvard.

The panel included Devens Enterprise director Peter Lowitt, Shirley Selectman Leonardo “Chip” Guercio, Zoning Bylaw Review Committee member John Rounds, and Devens Disposition Executive Board Land Use and Open Space Committee Chairman Heidi Ricci.

Available at the hearing were drafts of five documents:

* The 2006 Devens By-laws, required under Section 10 of Chapter 498 to be voted by the stakeholders, now a group of six under the Memorandum of Understanding

* The Draft Legislation

* The 2006 Devens Reuse Plan

* The 2006 Joint study

* The 2006 Joint Report, required under Section 23 of Chapter 498 to be submitted to the Legislature

Before the meeting was opened to public comment, Lowitt gave an overview of the planned disposition of Devens with the theme “Past, Present, and Future.”

The good news, he said, is that there would be only one presentation.

“The bad news is that I have to make it,” Lowitt joked.

Quoting French author Paul Valery, Lowitt began, “The future is not what it used to be.”

Since Chapter 498 of the Massachusetts General Laws was voted in 1993 as the governing legislation for the redevelopment of Fort Devens, Lowitt said, the growth at the former Army base has occurred faster than anticipated.

The process of rewriting the laws is intended to implement recommendations from a five-year review by the Joint Board of Selectmen, which took place in 2002 as required under Chapter 498, said Lowitt.

Following the recommendations of the review, he said, the executive board in coordination with MassDevelopment and representatives of the stakeholder towns, began working on the disposition process.

The reuse plan, said Lowitt, was prepared by the disposition board. It amends, updates and revises the current reuse plan to reflect those recommendations.

During this time, the so-called Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was approved, Lowitt said, to identify Devens agencies and residents as part of the voting process, not contemplated as stakeholders under the 1993 laws.

Representatives of the six stakeholders — Ayer, Shirley, Harvard, MassDevelopment, the Devens Enterprise Commission, and the Devens residents — have been negotiating what criteria would be incorporated into the documents, said Lowitt.

“Shirley came closest to getting everything on their wish list,” said Lowitt.

The “wish list” Lowitt referred to primarily concerns zoning bylaws and regulations that may govern outparcels that could, with an affirmative vote by the stakeholders, return to the town, as well as land use and open space protection there.

The Zoning Bylaw Review Committee has been one of the key forces behind negotiating potential zoning with representatives of MassDevelopment, even prior to the approval of the MOU.

Documents at the meeting incorporated many of the review committee’s recommendations, said Chairman Armand “Andy” Deveau.

Selectmen asked the review committee early in the process to look at the bylaws proposed in the documents and the terms of the memorandum alongside representatives with MassDevelopment.

Throughout the many working meetings, said Deveau, MassDevelopment, would not concede to lowering the number of housing units from the potential 300 units the documents would have allowed. The negotiations did, however, result in additional language that the Village Growth Area would support “up to 300 units” with reference to further regulations based on square footage yield.

MassDevelopment has worked closely with the review committee to make sure Shirley’s concerns were addressed during the disposition process, Lowitt said.

For most of Shirley’s geography, said Guercio, the biggest change is that housing will be built, which would not be allowed under the current zoning.

The type of light industrial development allowed — the only development enabled under Chapter 498 — is not desirable, he said.

Under the new scenario, said Guercio, there is more attention to detail.

An example, he said, is that there is design criteria that guarantees traffic, roads and bridge repair will be addressed as buildout proceeds.

“You really have to take the time to read the documents that are available,” said Guercio.

The community can weigh the documents against Chapter 498, he said, which only says that in 2033 five stakeholder groups will have to get together to decide the final disposition.

Under the new documents, he said, the new reuse plan spells out the final disposition and locks zoning in place for Devens and its outparcels.

“Another aspect of this new set of understandings,” said Rounds, “is a commitment from MassDevelopment to participate in some traffic adjustments.”

High on Rounds’ list for supporting the plan is the realignment of MacPherson Road access to and from Route 2.

It is important for Shirley as well as Ayer, he said, that traffic coming from towns north of Shirley such as Pepperell and Townsend be addressed as growth occurs, as the two towns are already experiencing some problems.

Also, Rounds said, the low-impact residential development proposed for the North Post is sensitive to preserving natural resources, unlike the environmental business zoning in place now.

Ricci said she has served in a number of capacities throughout the process, most recently serving on the land use committee.

“I think I’ve been a tough negotiator,” she said.

Ricci didn’t get everything she wanted, she said, “ but this is the best that we’re going to get given the timeframe we had.”

Within the documents , she said, there are several stipulations that land use and open space issues will not be neglected.

“On balance,” said Ricci, “it’s something that certainly is going to be better for Shirley than what we have now.”

In addition, Ricci said Devens residents have the right to their own government.

If two or more of the stakeholders vote against allowing Devens to become a town, she said, “it’s not something that’s just going to sit.”

Ricci said she thinks the Legislature is going to have an interest in this plan, regardless of what voters do in November.

“This is how we can shape our own future,” said Ricci.

These documents, said Deveau, plans these areas (the outparcels) in advance.

“It’s about what you’re going to see driving through the town,” he said.

“We believe we’ve negotiated a package that feels like what we’re used to looking at,” Deveau said. “We want control of the look and feel of the parcels.”

Jumping ahead to July 1, 2010, said Lowitt, under the revised plan Devens will incorporate, and the outparcels will go back to their respective towns.

The reports were created so that voters can make important decisions, he said.

“So here we are, the future,” Lowitt said. “It’s up to you.”

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