DEVENS — The Joint Boards of Selectmen discussed the possibility of an overlay district for Devens as they reviewed the discussion with the MassDevelopment Board of Directors on Oct. 10.
The MassDevelopment Grant Road development plan is a five-year project. Because of that, Joint Boards members believe it unlikely that MassDevelopment will end its dealings with the Devens Regional Enterprise Zone (DREZ) within those five years.
“The plan for Grant Road is not final, but it seems to be a huge commitment for MassDevelopment to do,” JBOS member Tom Kinch of Devens said.
“MassDevelopment is fully committed to that project,” MassDevelopment executive vice president George Ramirez said.
“That’s a five-year project, so one of the things that has come up here at this board is how long is MassDevelopment going to stay at Devens,” Kinch said. “Whether it’s 2033 or something before, it’s going to be farther out rather than sooner.
“We’re looking at the possibility of some sort of a transition,” said Kinch, “which is great for the residents here because we would like to see something like that. But we don’t know if it’s 2033 or something before… There’s been a lot of talk recently about maybe in the next couple of years, MassDevelopment moving out. If the Grant Road project goes on, that’s a five-year project.”
“I know we don’t have any plans to go anywhere in the foreseeable future, other than the full buildout of Devens, and if that takes until 2033, then that’s what it’s going to be,” Ramirez said.
JBOS member Leo Blair of Harvard chimed in with a point of clarification.
“I think there is some disconnect that goes on,” Blair said. “There is a difference between (MassDevelopment) being finished with (their) development commitment and the longevity of that and the governance. So when we talk about a transition, were talking about administration and day-to-day governance of the area with the zoning still in place and (MassDevelopment’s) activity still in place.
“As far as I’m concerned,” said Blair, “this could go until 2133. I don’t care. But the transition from this being a commercial enterprise to a community and having it overseen by towns that are in the business of providing services to thousands is something we are very interested in happening. That isn’t something that will be determined by MassDevelopment’s timeframe of developing. It will be determined by what the towns decide to do as part of a transition plan in accordance with Chapter 492.”
The JBOS transitioned into a discussion about how each of the town’s Board of Selectmen feels about the idea of creating an overlay district, previously proposed by Blair in 2009.
“I discussed the plan at our last selectmen meeting and there seems to be reason to go forward on it, to investigate where it could go,” JBOS Chairman Gary Luca, of Ayer, said.
The rest of the board agreed, with members noting that selectmen from Harvard and Shirley would also be willing to further explore the plan.
JBOS discussed an overlay district as being the governing body of DREZ while MassDevelopment continues its work in the DREZ or moves out. In a previous interview, Luca described the overlay plan.
“(Devens) would have a town administrator or town manager and have different groups to deal with everything (in Devens). Historic boundaries will still be there, so Devens residents in the Harvard boundary can still vote in Harvard, and the same for the other towns. When it gets fully developed, the revenue stream could be divided up between the towns, theoretically.”
JBOS suggested a meeting with all selectmen to discuss the overlay plan becoming a reality in the next few years.
A meeting is set for Nov. 14, at 7 p.m., in the Great Hall of the Ayer Town Hall.