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George Ramirez offers updates on MassDevelopment projects to Ayer board

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By Jon Bishop

jbishop@nashobapub.com

AYER — MassDevelopment’s George Ramirez stopped by the Board of Selectmen meeting on Tuesday to offer some updates on Devens projects and to discuss the future. He will leave his position as Executive Vice President for Devens Operations on Dec. 31.

“You’ve been made aware of the zoning changes,” he said, referring to the proposed Shirley Senior Residential area, a district for health-care offices, the Adams Circle Zoning Swap, and the permitting of light industrial, office, and research and development on Grant Road. “That’s a conversation that Ed Starzec is leading for us.”

He mentioned a transportation initiative that would bring a train from Littleton into Devens.

“Right now, we’re working on what they call the last mile,” he said. “Once that gets going,” it’ll give people an opportunity to get into the city.

And he discussed the Grant Road housing development project and the widening of Jackson Road.

“Those are sort of the big, exciting things at Devens,” he said.

Ramirez said that Devens has about 320 acres left for development.

“We are going to use up all that time (to 2033, when Chapter 498 ends and MassDevelopment and others will make a recommendation about permanent government in Devens) and fully build out Devens,” he said. MassDevelopment “is very committed to Devens. We will stay to 2033 or beyond. We think we’re doing a decent job.”

He encouraged the board to regularly meet with whomever his successor is.

“I’d hate for the conversation to not continue,” he said.

Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand said that the FY ’16 budgeting process is under way.

Ayer is fiscally stable and well-run, he said, but the economy is still sluggish. For instance, there is still higher than average unemployment.

So he urged caution.

“The town is fiscally strong,” he said. “But we still have to — as this board knows, that can change in a heartbeat.”

The board appointed Jeff Thomas of the Parks Commission; Jess Gugino of the Conservation Commission; and residents Beth Suedmeyer, Carolyn McCreary, Faith Salter, and Kristi Paradis to the Ayer Open Space and Recreation Plan Committee.

Pontbriand said that one resident representative vacancy remains.

The board also named Tim Bragan, Harvard’s town administrator, as Ayer’s Interim Non-Criminal Fire Prevention Ticketing Hearing Officer. He would serve until the 2015 class is conducted, after which Carly Antonellis would replace him. The non-criminal ticketing program gives the option for both warnings and tickets for fire code violations, Pontbriand said, quoting Lt. John Bresnahan.

The board approved the certification of the unpaid water and sewer lien list, which Pontbriand said currently stands at about $109,386.65.

“That still strikes me as high, for a small town like this,” Selectman Chairman Chris Hillman said. “I don’t believe there’s been one building shut off since we implemented this.”

He said that there are a lot of repeat violators.

“It affects everyone,” he said.

But he did say it was good that the town cut the amount in half.

The list will be posted to the town website.

Earlier in the meeting, the board approved a common victualler license for Taco Bell.

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