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Thatcher Kezer
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DEVENS — MassDevelopment wants to make Devens more attractive for big companies, and for one type in particular.

“It is our understanding that are only two sites in Massachusetts that would be attractive to bio-pharmaceutical manufacturing,” said Thatcher Kezer, senior vice president of Devens. And no, he doesn’t know where the other site is.

But before a new bio-pharm business can become a reality, Devens has to create a large parcel for development. It has the land, but the zoning needs to be changed to create a 50-acre parcel.

This plan met opposition last spring. Three towns with a footprint in Devens must approve the changes during simultaneous Town Meetings, referred to as Super Town Meetings.

Ayer and Shirley said yes to the rezoning. Harvard said no, so it was back to the drawing board.

This year, the wording was simplified, Kezer said. The rezoning will clearly put land in either residential or innovation and technology zones.

The previous wording seemed to say that the two uses could occur in the same place, he said.

“Our Town Meeting has a habit of saying no to a zoning bylaw change when there’s confusion” about it, Harvard Selectman Lucy Wallace said last July.

The draft of the new version rezones 28.5 acres from residential to innovation and technology, 4.2 acres from open space buffer to innovation and technology and 4.7 acres from residential to open space buffer.

The portions of land in both the residential and innovation and technology zone that are within the Oxbow National Wildlife Boundaries would be rezoned to open space and recreation.

The map shows roads and houses from the former Army housing area. The homes are gone and the roads will likely be taken out if the parcel is developed, said Kelsey Abbruzzese, MassDevelopment communications director in an email.

There will likely be no direct access between the business zone and the Village Green housing development except for emergency access, she wrote. A steep slope separates the potential development zone from the Oxbow, preventing significant impact of one area on the other.

Kezer is working with the towns to set up a date and time for the required Super Town Meeting. MassDevelopment will incur the costs if the date does not coincide with the annual Town Meeting, he said.

Informational hearings are scheduled: One was held March 31, 7 p.m., at 33 Andrews Parkway, Devens, and a second on April 13, 7 p.m., at Harvard’s interim Town Hall, 7 Fairbanks St., Harvard.

A site visit will be planned. Maps and drafts if the proposed zoning changes can be found online at courbanize.com/devens-2016.

The U.S. government used land from Ayer, Shirley and Harvard to form a military base established in 1917. Much of the base was closed in 1996 and MassDevelopment manages the mixed-use community.

Follow Anne O’Connor on Twitter and Tout @a1oconnor.

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