Devens: The Devens Enterprise Zone and Joint Boards of Selectmen

The Devens Regional Enterprise Zone (DREZ) was established with the passage of the Devens Reuse Plan, Devens Zoning Bylaws and local acceptance of Chapter 498 of the Acts of 1993 by the town meetings of Ayer, Harvard and Shirley in December, 1994. Chapter 498 is the governing statute covering Devens’ redevelopment, designated Massachusetts Development Finance Agency (MassDevelopment) as the state's redevelopment agency and the Devens Enterprise Commission (DEC) as the permitting entity. According to Section 23 of Chapter 498, by July 1, 2033 the towns, MassDevelopment and the DEC must initiate a study concerning the permanent government structure for Devens and must submit its study and recommendation for such permanent governance to the Governor and legislature by July 1, 2033.

Although no town has exercised jurisdiction over the lands underlying Devens since the Army purchased the land in 1927, approximately 61% (2,700 acres) of the 4,400-acre DREZ is within the historic geographical boundaries of Harvard (representing approximately 20% fo Harvard), with the remaining 23% and 16% within the boundaries of Ayer and Shirley respectively. The Devens Enterprise Commission (DEC), which was established under Chapter 498, acts as the sole permitting agency for projects within the DREZ, combining the role of local planning boards, boards of health, conservation commissions and zoning boards of appeal.  

The Boards of Selectmen of the Devens towns (Ayer, Harvard, Lancaster and Shirley) formed the Joint Boards of Selectmen (JBOS) in 1992 to provide a forum for addressing issues of mutual concern relating to the closure of Ft. Devens and subsequent redevelopment of Devens. By the December 1994 Memorandum of Understanding, the JBOS was designated the official advisory body to the state regarding issues of concern to the towns arising from MassDevelopment’s activities pursuant to Chapter 498. The same MOU created the Devens Advisory Committee to work with MassDevelopment on matters concerning the residents on Devens. The JBOS is currently comprised of the Boards of Selectmen of Ayer, Harvard and Shirley and meets jointly with the Devens Advisory Committee on matters of mutual concern.