DEVENS — Bits and pieces of the Trinity Financial proposal for Vicksburg Square trickled out this week, as the Boston developer met in a series of smaller meetings with the Devens area selectmen in advance of this Saturday’s second round of “vision sessions.”
The wraps come off the Trinity plan, including sketches and programming details, at two vision sessions scheduled for Saturday, May 7. The first takes place at Ayer Town Hall from 9-11:30 a.m. The second takes place at Volunteer’s Hall in the new Harvard Library from 1-3:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend all sessions and refreshments will be served.
Harvard and Ayer selectmen have confirmed that in meetings on Tuesday and unfolding during the week, the developer has detailed a project as follows:
* There would be 246 rental units total, comprised of 168 “family” units and 78 “elder” units.
* It’s estimated the 168 “family” housing units would introduce approximately 150 children to Vicksburg Square. Such an influx of school-age children would quadruple the number of Devens children currently educated in Harvard via year-to-year contracts with MassDevelopment. In fiscal 2012, those contracts are expected to generate $900,000 in revenue for Harvard’s public schools. As of Feb. 28, 57 Devens students were being educated in the Harvard school district. Harvard’s total enrollment is 1,264.
* The 168 “family” rental units would be broken up as follows: 25 percent would be one bedroom units, 70 percent would be two-bedroom units, and 10 percent would be three- bedroom units.
* Eighty percent of the housing would be “affordable” to people making 60 percent of the average median income (AMI), which was estimated to be in the range of $15,000 to $54,000. A wrinkle in calculating the AMI remains that the Ayer/Harvard town line runs through Vicksburg Square, which means the Middlesex/Worcester County boundary also dissects the project. AMI is determined on a county-by-county basis.
* The Devens Museum, now housed in three rooms at 94 Jackson Road, would be relocated to one of the three smaller outbuildings in the Vicksburg Square complex — the Bataan -Corregidor Memorial Hall building that served as a theater in its glory days, serving up nightly performances and weekend matinees for kids. The building sits directly on Buena Vista Street across from the Rogers Field parade grounds now used by soccer leagues and for other recreational purposes.
* The currently-paved courtyard in the middle of the quadrangle of the four main Vicksburg Square buildings would become mostly green space. Parking would be moved to the perimeter of the Vicksburg Square campus. It’s anticipated there would be a total of 446 parking units created.
* While Trinity attempted to assure that it will try to use local contractors, the project will be subject to prevailing wage (“Davis-Bacon Act”) requirements, which may draw companies outside the immediate region.
* Preliminary revenue projections from the project were pegged at from $6 to $8 million.
* As has been the case in other Trinity projects, a major investor is said to be on board to fund the project that will ultimately remain under Trinity’s ownership.
The tentative information was gained from Ayer and Harvard selectmen. Trinity Financial declined to provide any information on the project to Nashoba Publishing. The official unveiling of the project is scheduled for Saturday, May 7.
Three the magic number
Appropriately enough, the Trinity team dispatched three representatives to meet with the elected officials from the three Devens that hold the key to the three “yes” votes needed to allow the project to proceed. The selectmen each control access to the warrant to call the respective Special Town Meetings in Ayer, Harvard and Shirley. The Trinity team included President Jim Keefe, and associates Abby Goldenfarb and Dan Drazen.
The proposal requires a zoning change, which needs tri-town approval. A simple majority Town Meeting vote is all that’s necessary to effect a yes vote from each town. A similar attempt was made in June 2009 during a series of simultaneously held Special Town Meetings in the three towns, dubbed a “Super Town Meeting.”
Harvard and Shirley Town Meetings voted yes. Ayer Town Meeting voted no, which sunk a MassDevelopment-led initiative to rezone Vicksburg Square for the development of 350 residential units. The request also included language that would have increased the 282 housing cap within the Devens Regional Enterprise Zone (DREZ), which is comprised of the land sold to the state after the decommissioning of the former Fort Devens Army base.
This spring, Keefe suggested a Super Town Meeting for June 22, with all expenses paid by Trinity Financial. However the Joint Boards of Selectmen successfully convinced Keefe last Thursday not to rush voters into a decision until the public has been given adequate time to absorb and understand Keefe’s plans.
Selectmen strongly suggested a three-month lead time before any Super Town Meeting. September was tentatively discussed as a possibly date for the three special Town Meetings, which would provide more time for municipal board and voter education and buy-in and requisite public hearings without the rush to late June. It was also discussed that a fall town meeting would not interfere with the vacation plans.
In Harvard, Selectman Ron Ricci confirmed that he and Marie Sobalvarro participated in the briefings earlier this week. In Ayer, selectmen Jim Fay, Gary Luca and Frank Maxant confirmed they were briefed on Tuesday. Ayer Selectman Carolyn McCreary was to be briefed on Thursday and no firm meeting date was immediately set for a meeting with Ayer selectmen Pauline Conley.
At Tuesday night’s televised meeting of the Ayer selectmen, the board was asked why they did not detail the basic facts of what they’d learned in meeting with Keefe in advance of Saturday’s vision session. Fay supported the 2009 rezoning attempt. Fay indicated, “for me to present that would be unfair to Trinity.” He said his meeting lasted ten minutes. “It was a quick big picture. In that small time frame… I wouldn’t want to do what they plan in 2.5 hours.”
Maxant was a vocal opponent of the rezoning attempt in 2009 and stated after his briefing “I remain opposed to the whole concept.” Maxant has advocated for Vicksburg Square to retain its’ Innovation and Technology zoning instead of adding to the local housing stock.