DEVENS -- A ballot question regarding Devens in unlikely to move forward this year, as Harvard's selectmen sealed their warrant in February and Shirley has put the issue aside.
The Joint Boards of Selectmen canceled its meeting last Thursday due to a lack of quorum, further delaying any discussion of overlay governance in Devens after the last meeting ended in a feisty debate.
The question would have asked voters whether they are supportive of overlay governance in the Devens Regional Enterprise Zone. The proposed overlay governance between the three towns would occur during the transition period that ends in 2033. The towns would replace MassDevelopment in governing, while MassDevelopment continues to redevelop Devens.
But last month's contention came over a second question that asked JBOS members if it is "fundamental" to poll Devens residents before asking the nonbinding referendum question at the three town meetings.
Harvard Selectman Leo Blair was clearly against polling Devens residents first, arguing that they can already vote in Harvard.
"I can't disenfranchise almost 4,000 registered voters in Harvard from being able to express their opinions because some people in some section of our community may want to be able to control what is and isn't allowed to be voted on in our town," he said in an interview last week.
Blair said he could not attend last week's meeting because he has not even brought the issue to the board, and therefore would have no direction from them.
"We haven't had an opportunity as a board to discuss what the next steps would be because our agenda has been filled with annual town meeting, which is coming up on the first day in April, and the Town Hall building project," he said.
Ayer selectmen briefly discussed the matter, although some wanted to see the actual wording of the questions, said Chair Gary Luca. Luca was not able to attend the meeting either, for personal reasons.
Although Harvard ran out of time to post the question for town meeting, Luca said Ayer's town warrant does not have to be finalized until April 11.
But there would still need to be another JBOS meeting to decide whether Shirley will pursue the questions, he said.
Shirley Selectman Robert Prescott said that board is setting its vote and opinion aside at this point.
Prescott said that when he asked his board the first time, one member suggested polling the Devens residents before even putting the referendum on town warrants.
But after learning that Devens representative Tom Kinch does not see a need to poll Devens residents first, the board changed its mind.
"Their opinion is if Devens doesn't want to poll their own residents, far be it from us to tell them they should," he said.
Prescott was planning to announce this newest change at the canceled JBOS meeting.
"I guess the theme for us is we're not really interested in governing someone that doesn't want to be governed unilaterally," he said. "And I don't think we're interested in polling somebody that doesn't want to be polled."
Although there is still time for the questions to make it to town meeting, Prescott said it is probably unlikely.
It does not make sense for Shirley town meeting voters to consider the question and then Harvard or Ayer not to, he said.
Blair said the second question of polling Devens residents was a "new invention of Tom Kinch's" or someone else that was never discussed for the nearly seven months during which the JBOS worked on the referendum question.
Kinch said the question evolved over time, brought up at one of the JBOS meetings by the Ayer and Shirley representatives.
Kinch has maintained that he is against polling Devens residents altogether, arguing that it is an "exercise of utility." He also argued that the second question of polling the Devens residents did not necessarily restrict the first.
"It didn't say that if the (Devens) community does not agree, then it will not go forward," he said. "There was no quid pro quo."
The next JBOS meeting is scheduled for March 27.
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