DEVENS -- The Joint Boards of Selectmen discussed an overlay district for Devens and the need to form a real plan for its future.

Selectmen Leo Blair, of Harvard, referenced the Devens Reuse Plan and its 2033 date when final governance of Devens must be decided.

"This (deadline) is getting mature now, and I feel it's time now for us to be more involved and start making more decisions about what (Devens) looks like going forward.

"At some point," he said, "Mass Development is going to go home and we're still going to be here."

Blair proposed an Overlay District for the Devens Regional Enterprise Zone (DREZ). It would consist of a governing group for the community of Devens to provide an outlet for residents to go to.

The plan was discussed five years ago, and JBOS Chairman Gary Luca, of Ayer, admits he wasn't supportive of it at the time.

"Five years later you look at it and you think, it makes sense," Luca said. "The plan basically means everything stays the way it is, but Mass Development wouldn't be managing the community anymore. (Devens) would have a town administrator or town manager and have different groups to deal with everything up here like a board of health or conservation group. 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. Also departments in Devens, like fire and police, could be used by the other towns."

Ever since the most recent failed vote, JBOS has been "spinning (its) wheels" to come up with a plan for Devens, Luca said.

"This plan would give people up here some sort of government to make them feel like someone is really looking out for them," Luca said.

"I think the whole thing is, it's maturing on us now," Blair said. "There's a lot more issues that are coming up that we're thinking, 'Jeez, if there was a governing body, it would be a lot easier,' and the idea for that needs to come from this group."

Members agreed to propose the ideas to their corresponding boards.

New innovative residential development guidelines

Devens Enterprise Commission Director Peter Lowitt briefed the Joint Boards on proposed innovative design regulations for a development on Grant Road.

Discussion about the Grant Road residential area began in 2007. DEC has refined the regulations for innovative residential design (IRD) to more affordable, cluster like homes with "walkability."

The proposed IRD regulations are integrated into sections of existing regulations. New regulations include a streamlined process, energy and water efficiency, walkable and affordable components and public open space.

Lowitt also introduced a new review process for permitting, calling it a "one-step review." The current Grant Road permitting is a three- to four-step review involving a master plan, development plan and a site plan approval with subdivision requirements.

According to Lowitt's presentation, "Standard subdivision requirements are inflexible, disconnected from existing development." DEC hopes to create a more condensed development with open spaces and walking components to create a closer, more neighborhood-like feel.

"The new regulations will allow cluster development on smaller, more efficient lots with the remainder of the lot area being open space in return for the developer building more energy-efficient housing, which is water efficient and with improved indoor air quality," Lowitt said. 

Mass Development is reviewing final Grant Road proposals from developers and plans to make a decision by Oct. 10.

Follow Julia Kacmarek on Twitter and Tout @JuliaEKacmarek and Like her page "Julia E Kacmarek" on Facebook.