HARVARD — The Joint Boards of Selectmen (JBOS) was given a draft report of results from Harvard’s Sept. 27 Community Forum on Devens Success Criteria, during its recent meeting in Town Hall.
Presented by Montachusett Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) staff member Bob Biaggi on Oct. 30, the report summarizes what approximately 40 Harvard residents, separated into several focus groups, offered during a three-hour session.
“We think it’s a pretty good report,” Biaggi said. “The economic development group, the largest, had a lot to say. The smallest group was the environmental.”
Answering Ayer Selectman Gary Luca, Biaggi said there was some consensus, although the session could have gone longer but fatigue was a factor. Ayer can benefit from some of the data, he said.
Answering Harvard Selectman Lucy Wallace, Biaggi said discussion had included some criteria not on the list which interviewers attempted to “tap into.”
When Ayer Selectman Carolyn McCreary asked what steps would be next in determining Harvard’s desires, an audience member said some participants had not felt any reason to rush, and that movement was going too fast, without enough information.
The JBOS has voted to produce a draft disposition proposal within 120 days from the date of the last town meeting held in any of the three host communities, and it is struggling to get that word out.
“Turnout was low for a rather important issue,” Harvard Selectman Ron Ricci said. “I’m open to any ideas you have (to make the vote common knowledge).”
Harvard Selectman Leo Blair, the JBOS chairman, said one factor in the low turnout may have been where the JBOS is in the disposition process — meaning the forum was another in a long line of formative but not decisive processes.
“Despite the small feedback, it looks good,” said Devens JBOS representative, Devens Committee Chairman Thomas Kinch. “Regarding moving too fast, there is a lack of information getting out or people just want a slower process. What can we do?”
One audience member said that despite the 10-year process, people are still uninformed, don’t pay attention to the “good coverage” in newspapers and that some residents seem new to the process.
“This will possibly be a constant,” Devens Committee member Phillip Crosby said. “It seems to be that right before any change is to be made, we’ll hear ‘too fast this year.’ We should publicize and move forward. We must come to decisions soon. People tune out after three or four years.”
MRPC’s summary of the Harvard resident’s forum includes the following:
* Types of Devens’ governance need to be professionally analyzed — particularly the effects on town administration or delivery of services.
* There is concern about the final number of Devens homes to be constructed, as are differing opinions, the lifespan of the housing cap, types and sizes of housing, and compliance with the affordable housing law.
* Since housing and education are directly related and are a Harvard priority, the strengths and weaknesses of increasing the student body must be identified and the realistic impact quantified.
* A more thorough financial investigation of the transition of Devens must be made and publicized.
* Information about the size of the aquifer, quantity of water and resource management must be found and reported.
* A realistic timeline is needed for analysis of Devens disposition, public education and decision-making.
* All means of communication between officials and the public must be used and public input actively sought.
* There is support for business growth but the needs of business and residents must be balanced.
* Contamination issues (brownfields) must be solved prior to disposition. Identification and cleanup can take years.