DEVENS -- Members of the Devens Committee expressed frustration at the seemingly repetitive movements of the Joint Boards of Selectmen on an initiative for an overlay governance of the Devens Regional Enterprise Zone.

Reviewing what happened at last month's JBOS meeting, committee member Elizabeth Witmer explained that Harvard decided not to bring the question of an overlay district to Town Meeting. Ayer, she said, was still undecided.

"This all sounds very familiar from the February meeting," said committee member Van Easton.

The towns and Devens had been in discussions over whether to poll residents on what they thought of an overlay governance for the Devens zone. The plan was to have Ayer, Harvard and Shirley regain governance over Devens during a transition period that lasts until 2033, when MassDevelopment pulls out. The three towns would govern Devens while MassDevelopment continues to redevelop it.

But one JBOS meeting fell into a heated argument over the second question, whether to poll Devens residents before posting the nonbinding question at town meetings.

Witmer said she did not find the JBOS instructive and wondered if there was a point in even participating in it.

"Could we make a motion to the JBOS that we hold off on participation in talks about this until we have more people?" Witmer asked.


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"It seems rather strange that they bring up these issues but then they don't have any action on it, and it's a waste of our time to keep participating in it."

But Tom Kinch, the Devens representative for JBOS, said that the group has been helpful in some instances, particularly with the "2B" proposal to turn Devens into its own municipality and the fight for the adoption of a mosquito-control program for residents.

Kinch recommended to the group that they maintain a presence on the JBOS because the committee fought hard to get there and because it can be useful.

"You measure the success in very small increments," he said. "But where else could we go to rub elbows with the guys and the gals that lead the towns that surround us? The JBOS is good for that."

When the overlay possibility was being discussed, the committee had voted to support a nonbinding referendum to the voters of the three towns, and voted 3-2 vote in favor of polling Devens residents, Witmer said.

At their last meeting, the committee voted to hold off on a poll and a study on overlay governance until JBOS brought up the idea again in the future.

Easton said there appears to be no momentum for the initiative, since Harvard Selectman Leo Blair -- who first proposed the idea -- is not even showing up to the meetings.

"That's when I jump in and say let's pull the plug on this," Easton said. "The cheerleader here is not cheerleading anymore."

The group also voted committee Chairman Richard Bernklow as the next JBOS representative, as Kinch approaches his last meeting as the Devens voice. Bernklow was absent.

Member Betsy Thiel gave a general recap of last week's four-hour public workshop on the Grant Road development, which will include 120 housing units on about 35 acres. The workshop went over two different scenarios for the development, and Thiel explained that the workshop talked about transportation, solar panels and more.

"It was the beginning of listening to what community residents thought," she said.

Committee members agreed to look into whether there can be a special election to fill the empty seat on the committee, designated for five members.

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