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State will keep in touch as residential planning proceeds


DEVENS — The Joint Boards of Selectmen (JBOS) has been assured by Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) Undersecretary Tina Brooks that her department will keep in close touch as plans go ahead for increased housing on the former Fort Devens military base.

The JBOS had asked Brooks, and state Sen. Pamela Resor, D-Acton, to discuss a state proposal to add 400 homes to those already approved for construction at Devens.

The state agreed to a cap of 282 new housing units at Devens under Chapter 498, the state law governing the former base. To date, only 106 units have been built. Construction of the rest has been halted by the Devens Enterprise Commission (DEC), pending investigations into building future homes with smaller carbon footprints.

DHCD would like to complete the 176 homes already approved then add another 400 to the total, Brooks said at the JBOS meeting.

Some have questioned whether an amendment to the Chapter 498 agreement to add the 400 homes could be done simply by a vote of the JBOS, state Legislature or residents at a “super town meeting.” That question, it turned out, was only one of many relating to the new construction. The JBOS wanted to meet with Brooks to settle those questions.

Other concerns include:

* where the proposed new housing would be located;

* funding for a potential roadway from Devens to Harvard;

* creating a master plan for all Devens housing, even beyond the 400 newly proposed houses;

* whether an analysis of the local real estate market would be completed to find out if there’s a demand for so many new homes;

* what impact so many new homes would have on local growth; and

* what percentage of the new homes would be set aside as affordable.

The additional housing — all of which would be available for purchase — is needed due to the increasing number of employees expected to be hired by the companies moving to Devens, she said. Their sale, however, will be available to anyone due to the state’s fair housing laws.

Ayer town administrator Shaun Suhoski described the impasse between the state and JBOS as one of “differing expectations.”

The answers to many of the group’s outstanding questions are still unknown, said Brooks. They will be addressed over the next few months, she said, and will hopefully be ready by June.

Brooks said she’ll also arrange for a “point of contact” with someone in her department.

Hopefully the March 27 meeting will be the beginning of a “re-engagement” between the group and the state, she said.

The JBOS plans to meet with Brooks again at the group’s next meeting to discuss how the Chapter 498 law can be amended to add the 400 extra homes proposed by the DHCD.