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DEVENS — In a face-to-face meeting last Thursday night, the Joint Boards of Selectmen for Ayer, Harvard and Shirley had a sit-down with the one-stop permitting authority, the Devens Enterprise Commission, to air complaints and concerns regarding Devens development.

The hourlong summit was sparked in large part due to months of noise complaints about Evergreen Solar on Barnum Road. The solar panel manufacturer alledgedly continues to operate above of the maximum noise limits established under the Devens industrial zoning bylaws. Leo Blair, who recently resigned from the Harvard selectmen and therefore his chairman role on the JBOS, called for the meeting to air allegations of the DEC’s insensitively to the plight of Harvard neighbors bearing the brunt of the ongoing noise violations.

The DEC is comprised of 12 members, all of whom are appointed by the governor. Six serve as at-large members, while Ayer, Harvard and Shirley each put forth two representatives for each town for final gubernatorial approval. As the DEC is ultimately governor-appointed, the membership was asked where their loyalties lie – with the towns they serve or the administration that appoints them?

“As far as I’m concerned, it has nothing to do with personal loyalties,” said James DeZutter, a Harvard DEC representative. “My loyalties are to the town of Harvard.” Since the three stakeholder towns voted to accept enabling legislation that created the DEC as the all-in-one land use approval board for Devens, DeZuttter said, “the town said to me that the bylaws are in the town’s best interest.”

The DEC also defended on the degree of technical expertise among its membership when permitting enormous industrial operations. DEC Chairman William Marshall cited the DEC’s strong administrative staff, particularly Land Use Administrator Peter Lowitt, but also said, “we go out and get it” when a higher degree of expertise is required.

“It’s a very extensive and expensive proposition to have their project peer reviewed,” said Marshall.

Selectmen called for more reports and status reports from their respective town representatives “other than when there’s a fire drill” said Harvard Selectman Chairman Ron Ricci. But Lowitt responded that individual development proposals are already submitted to the three town halls for review and a 30-day comment period before the DEC takes final action on proposals.

But the DEC offered self-criticism that they did not properly vet the sound modeling provided by Evergreen Solar before granting project approval. Lowitt admitted to an “learning curve on that,” and added “what we didn’t do is calibrate the model and the assumptions that the developers engineering firm made.”

“We said it looked good and we signed off on it,” said Lowitt.

Ricci reported difficulty getting to the right Devens office to share resident complaints several months into the Evergreen issue.

On any town complaints or concerns regarding projects as future Devens developments rolls-out, especially near town boarders, Lowitt encouraged the selectmen, “Contact the DEC. Contact me.”

Differences aired in DEC — JBOS face-to-face
Differences aired in DEC — JBOS face-to-face
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

DEVENS — In a face-to-face meeting last Thursday night, the Joint Boards of Selectmen for Ayer, Harvard and Shirley had a sit-down with the one-stop permitting authority, the Devens Enterprise Commission, to air complaints and concerns regarding Devens development.

The hourlong summit was sparked in large part due to months of noise complaints about Evergreen Solar on Barnum Road. The solar panel manufacturer alledgedly continues to operate above of the maximum noise limits established under the Devens industrial zoning bylaws. Leo Blair, who recently resigned from the Harvard selectmen and therefore his chairman role on the JBOS, called for the meeting to air allegations of the DEC’s insensitively to the plight of Harvard neighbors bearing the brunt of the ongoing noise violations.

The DEC is comprised of 12 members, all of whom are appointed by the governor. Six serve as at-large members, while Ayer, Harvard and Shirley each put forth two representatives for each town for final gubernatorial approval. As the DEC is ultimately governor-appointed, the membership was asked where their loyalties lie – with the towns they serve or the administration that appoints them?

“As far as I’m concerned, it has nothing to do with personal loyalties,” said James DeZutter, a Harvard DEC representative. “My loyalties are to the town of Harvard.” Since the three stakeholder towns voted to accept enabling legislation that created the DEC as the all-in-one land use approval board for Devens, DeZuttter said, “the town said to me that the bylaws are in the town’s best interest.”

The DEC also defended on the degree of technical expertise among its membership when permitting enormous industrial operations. DEC Chairman William Marshall cited the DEC’s strong administrative staff, particularly Land Use Administrator Peter Lowitt, but also said, “we go out and get it” when a higher degree of expertise is required.

“It’s a very extensive and expensive proposition to have their project peer reviewed,” said Marshall.

Selectmen called for more reports and status reports from their respective town representatives “other than when there’s a fire drill” said Harvard Selectman Chairman Ron Ricci. But Lowitt responded that individual development proposals are already submitted to the three town halls for review and a 30-day comment period before the DEC takes final action on proposals.

But the DEC offered self-criticism that they did not properly vet the sound modeling provided by Evergreen Solar before granting project approval. Lowitt admitted to an “learning curve on that,” and added “what we didn’t do is calibrate the model and the assumptions that the developers engineering firm made.”

“We said it looked good and we signed off on it,” said Lowitt.

Ricci reported difficulty getting to the right Devens office to share resident complaints several months into the Evergreen issue.

On any town complaints or concerns regarding projects as future Devens developments rolls-out, especially near town boarders, Lowitt encouraged the selectmen, “Contact the DEC. Contact me.”