A week ago, the Harvard Hillside announced that one of the governor-appointed commissioners on the Devens Enterprise Commission (DEC) has resigned and the Devens Committee is requesting that a Devens resident fill the vacancy. Not a good idea. Devens people are now represented on the DEC. Several years ago, while serving as a Harvard selectman, I recommended that one of our two DEC commissioners come from the Devens neighborhoods. The recommendation was accepted and approved. Thus, the Devens people now occupy a seat on the DEC.
I would suggest a more appropriate action.
The goal of development, as stated in legislation, Chapter 498 of the Acts of 1993 and the Devens Reuse Plan approved by the towns of Ayer, Harvard and Shirley in 1994 is to “achieve a balance of economic, social and environmental needs while maintaining and enhancing the natural resource base ” Further, Section 9 of Chapter 498 establishes the DEC to oversee redevelopment of Devens. The DEC, the law states, shall consist of 12 commissioners with the towns of Ayer, Harvard and Shirley choosing two each and the governor selecting the remaining six. Certain commissioner qualifications are spelled out. Among them the law requires that “all 12 commissioners shall have proven expertise in one or more of the following areas: Industrial development, housing, finance, business, real estate, environment, planning, transportation or municipal government.”
Since DEC’s inception in the mid-1990s, its commissioners have provided expertise in the areas of industrial development, housing, finance, business, real estate, etc. The sole exception: Environmental expertise and knowledge. The DEC has no commissioner with environmental expertise, nor has it had any in the past. Deliberate? You figure. Regardless, the time is past due that we follow the law and appoint a commissioner to the DEC who has a certifiable background and record in the area of the environment. We should remember that 1) a basic goal of Devens redevelopment, specified in Chapter 498, is the protection and enhancement of Devens’ natural resource base; and 2) that virtually every significant DEC decision has an environmental impact, good or bad.
Therefore, let us get back to basics, the law, and the original compact between the commonwealth and the three towns. Have the environment represented on the DEC. I urge our selectmen, our state representatives and our governor see that this happens. And, as a final comment, let us limit this ongoing political game of “Stacking the DEC.”