Permitting

Expedited Local Permitting

Devens projects benefit from an expedited, 75-day permitting process administered by the Devens Enterprise Commission (DEC), the independent regulatory and permitting authority for the Devens Regional Enterprise Zone. Wearing multiple hats—as the board of health, conservation commission, zoning board of adjustment, and planning board—the DEC performs its multiple duties in the context of a unique and innovative “one-stop” unified permitting system, which greatly streamlines the local regulatory process.

As a result, most development permit applications are acted on within 75 days. A recent example is Bristol-Myers Squibb’s $750 million Large Scale Cell Culture facility, which was approved by the DEC in just 49 days. No other Massachusetts permitting process can match the project flexibility and approval speed that Devens has to offer.

Key Aspects of the Process

An effective streamlined permitting process requires open lines of communication between applicant and regulator, a complete and comprehensive application, and clearly-defined provision for public comment. The DEC’s process incorporates all three of these elements.

  • Open Lines of Communication
    The most successful applicants meet early and often with the DEC. An initial scoping session is a critical element as an opportunity for the applicant to get initial feedback from DEC staff on the proposed project as well as a chance to pose any procedural questions. Additional pre- permitting conferences may be required to review critical development issues, application contents, waiver requests, design guidelines, and scheduling issues. With full time staff and an open door policy, the DEC is ready and able to assist.
  • Complete and Comprehensive Application
    The DEC application requires more information than is normally required in some municipalities. The goal is to provide the DEC commissioners, staff, and their peer review consultants proactively with all of the information they will need to make their decision within 75 days, thereby minimizing the potential for schedule-busting last minute requests for additional studies or reports.
  • Provision for Public Comment
    While the DEC process is built for efficiency, public input is an integral component of the review process. The DEC process provides the surrounding towns (Ayer, Harvard, and Shirley) 30 days to render comments to the DEC on an application. Additionally, members of the general public are welcome to comment on applications either in writing or in person at the public hearing that is held for every major project. Hearings may be continued to the next month with the agreement of the applicants. The DEC provides notice of public hearings to the general public and to abutting property owners.

For more information on the DEC and the Devens unified permit process, visit the DEC’s website at www.devensec.com.

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