DEVENS -- The Devens Citizens Advisory Committee brought up the issue of jurisdiction Tuesday night, voting to hold off the controversial poll that caused heated debate at the last Joint Boards of Selectmen meeting.

At issue is whether the towns should poll Devens residents to see what they think of overlay governance, which would give the towns of Ayer, Harvard and Shirley control over the Devens Regional Enterprise Zone.

The main argument at the meeting in January began when the boards discussed whether they should poll Devens residents before putting the poll on Town Meeting agendas. Harvard Selectman Leo Blair maintained polling Devens residents would only "super-enfranchise" them.

On Monday night, the Devens committee voted to hold off on the poll and a study on overlay governance until the Joint Boards brings both items to the table again in the future. The main drive behind the decision was the fact that Harvard is not going to present the poll at its spring Town Meeting.

"To me it's a sequential question," said member Van Easton. "If Harvard is out of it, it doesn't matter whether Ayer or Shirley decided this year or not."

Tom Kinch, the Devens representative to the JBOS, presented Harvard's town website and Chapter 498 as proof that Devens is independent from the three towns -- an argument contrary to Blair's idea that Devens residents are considered residents of Harvard.


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Kinch specifically cited a section of the law that calls for an interim government for Devens. Kinch also addressed the voting section of the law, which states Devens residents can vote in the town where their residence is located.

"That's a little confusing," Kinch said. "But it doesn't say that we are residents of those towns, it just says that out of convenience we're going to vote over there."

Kinch cited a 1994 Memorandum of Understanding that created the Devens advisory committee, explaining why the committee has a seat at the JBOS table.

The law, Kinch said, was approved by Ayer, Shirley, Lancaster and Harvard, "so there should be no question about who has governance over Devens."

The law also states that the fort's redevelopment will aim to strengthen the local, regional and state economy.

"That's where I think the JBOS comes unstuck, because everybody that's there is interested in their town," he said. "It's easy for us because we're involved in the Devens Regional Enterprise Zone, but it's hard for them to transcend from local to regional to what's good for the commonwealth."

The Devens committee voted to send Kinch back to the next JBOS meeting with the arguments and documentation.

"By fiat you are not our leader," DCAC Chairman Richard Bernklow said of Harvard. "You are not taking us over, you don't get any jurisdiction over us."

The issue has raised a larger matter that stems from the fact that the Devens Regional Enterprise Zone, governed by Mass Development, is an exception to the rule.

Easton said that in the past he did not feel right voting on fire engines and other items for a town in which he does not pay taxes.

"Again, we're not residents of Harvard," he said. "Our deed says Harvard but we live in the enterprise zone, which is considered a separate municipality."

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