Neil Angus, Environmental Planner for Devens shares the community’s STAR story.
As a former military base, Devens has always had a commitment to sustainable redevelopment. This commitment stemmed from an initial planning charrette in the early 1990’s when the closure of Devens was announced. The surrounding towns of Ayer, Harvard, Shirley and Lancaster, along with numerous local stakeholder groups wanted to see the former military base redevelop in a more environmentally, economically and socially responsible manner for the region as a whole. The Devens Reuse Plan captured this desire and adopted it into law. The Devens Enterprise Commission, as the local planning and regulatory authority overseeing the redevelopment of Devens, in collaboration with MassDevelopment, the state economic development agency, continuously implement this sustainability goal and have always been looking for ways to evaluate, measure, report, monitor and improve progress towards this broad goal. The STAR certification process was a perfect tool to help us accomplish just that.
The third-party evaluation process that the STAR certification process provided, reinforced to us that our past and current efforts are right in line with the sustainable redevelopment goal for Devens. The STAR certification process helped us comprehensively identify our strengths and weaknesses as they relate to a more holistic approach to redevelopment. Certification helped us see that existing sustainability programs like those offered by the Devens Eco-Efficiency Center are truly unique to Devens and really add to the sustainable redevelopment goal of the Devens Reuse Plan. We scored very well in the Built Environment; Economy & Jobs; Natural Systems; and Innovation & Process goal areas, but found additional room for improvement in Education, Arts & Community; Equity & Empowerment; and Health & Safety goal areas. While we still received decent scores in these latter goal areas, the certification process helped us identify what additional programs and services could be implemented in the region to help us broaden our sustainability efforts in Devens and the region as a whole.
The STAR Community Rating System V2.0 Technical Guide was extremely useful, not only in guiding us through the certification process, but also in seeing what other communities are doing to achieve specific local actions in each Goal Area of STAR. Now that we have achieved 4-STAR certification, we will begin the process of identifying, targeting and prioritizing future actions that will help us improve our overall sustainability rating. The STAR certification process, Technical Guide, and associated resources have provided us with a wealth of resources and insight to develop a roadmap for improving sustainability even more in the Devens region.
While we are not officially a town or city, the Devens Enterprise Commission and MassDevelopment are operating Devens in a similar fashion and the certification process really helped us see what we are doing well and where we need to focus our efforts going forward. The certification process also helped us re-establish connections with regional entities such as the Nashoba Valley Medical Center and Regional Health Service Agencies to better coordinate, share and promote regional services and programs that these entities offer to Devens residents, businesses and organizations. The STAR certification process has been a very valuable experience for us in Devens.