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Devens residents want action, but local group urges caution


HARVARD — Citizens For Our Future, a grass-roots group of town residents advocating for a fair and open Devens disposition process, has written a letter to the Board of Selectmen about the situation and the role it believes town officials should play as the process continues.

While recognizing that Harvard’s responsibility to its Devens residents is key, the group wrote in a letter that it doesn’t want its public officials to back changes in Chapter 498, the state law that governs Devens.

A Devens citizens’ group recently sought support from Ayer, Shirley and Harvard selectmen for a petition to the Legislature to change Section 23 of Chapter 498. The proposed move would make the residents of Devens an equal stakeholder in the disposition process.

There are other ways to address governance issues at Devens, Citizens For Our Future members say, and the group has asked selectmen to explore alternatives, short of legislative action.

Citizens member Stephen Finnegan attended the Jan. 16 selectmen’s meeting with other members. Referencing the letter to the board, which included a mission statement outlining its stand on Devens-related issues, he said the concerns Devens residents have raised — such as fees and governance under MassDevelopment — are real, important and must be resolved, but not by changing Chapter 498.

Such matters may have been addressed within a resolution to make Devens a town, but that move was derailed when the town-building proposal Scenario 2B was voted down at town meetings in two of the three stakeholder towns. The vote restarted a disposition process that could take decades to complete.

If it takes 20-plus years to resolve Devens’ disposition, said Finnegan, then so be it. The key, he said, is to get it right.

“Our primary objective isn’t to advocate for one disposition scenario over another, but instead to work for an open disposition process,” the letter states. “We’re eager to offer our resources and our energies in crafting a new way forward. We stand ready to support your efforts to fulfill your roles as the elected selectmen of all the citizens ”

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