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COMMUNITY PROFILE

Schools, location keep Rehoboth growing

By Thomas Grillo, Globe Correspondent, 4/27/2002

REHOBOTH - Before the South Attleboro commuter rail station opened in the late 1980s, this bucolic community in Southeastern Massachusetts had fewer than 8,000 residents. [an error occurred while processing this directive]

Since then, the town's population has grown by more than 37 percent, due to an influx of buyers fleeing high prices in Boston and Providence.

   
 AT A GLANCE

Incorporated: 1645
Distance from Boston: 65 miles
Area: 47.3 square miles
Population: 11,000
Tax rate: $11.92
Government: open town meeting
Services: private wells and septic systems
Schools: 1 elementary, 1 middle, plus Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High School
Per-pupil expenditure: $5,188 (state average is $5,876)

 More information on Rehoboth from Boston.com's Your Town section.

 
"Young professionals with kids who want a rural lifestyle, good schools, and a one-hour commute to Boston have discovered Rehoboth," said Kathleen McCarthy.

McCarthy, a sales associate at Re/Max Classics, should know. In 1997, she and her husband sold their home on Providence's fashionable East Side. They traded an urban center and private schools for Rehoboth's pastoral living, public schools, and a horse.

As Rehoboth's population has swelled, the number of farms has dwindled. Farmers are realizing their land is valuable to developers. Since 1998, a dozen subdivisions have replaced acres of farmland.

Many residents express disappointment about the new developments, but few are willing to pay more taxes to preserve open space. This month, 61 percent of those who went to the polls rejected adopting the state Community Preservation Act. The local-option measure would have instituted a 2 percent property tax surcharge to acquire open space, preserve historic buildings, and construct affordable housing. The money gathered from the surcharge is matched by the state.

In addition, Town Meeting recently defeated an effort to buy the 67-acre Horton Farm for $500,000. That means the property will become high-priced homes.

Developers of affordable housing have introduced several projects recently, with more on the way. A builder has proposed 38 single-family homes on Bliss Street. Officials cut the plan to 16 units and insisted on one-acre lots with 100 feet of frontage. But the developer has appealed to the state under Chapter 40B, the state's anti-snob zoning law, which allows denser developments.

A second plan, for 400 units of luxury housing for seniors, with a golf course, tennis courts, and swimming pool, was reduced to 200 units and approved by the town.

Out-of-towners' demand for housing has caused home prices to soar. The median price for a single-family in Rehoboth increased from $175,000 in 2000 to $320,000 for the first two months of 2002, the most recent data available from the Warren Group.

"We're becoming a Boston suburb," said David Marciello, executive town secretary. "Here you can buy a two-acre parcel with a large custom-made Colonial for $389,000. And as a bonus you look out your window to see deer, wild turkeys, bald eagles, and foxes in your backyard."

Realtors say the most sought-after home is a Colonial with an open floor plan on a cul-de-sac priced between $390,000 and $450,000. The Multiple Listing Service had 18 single-family homes for sale this week, from $263,900 for a three-bedroom Colonial to $1.1 million for a 12-room home built in 1790.

"We're not seeing bidding wars," McCarthy said. "But buyers are realizing they have to offer close to asking price."

The crime rate in Rehoboth is low. Last year, there were 26 violent offenses and 115 crimes against property, according to the Massachusetts State Police.

New residents say quality schools and proximity to Boston are attracting young families. "We're not Weston, Wayland, and Sudbury, but compared to school districts in this region we're good," McCarthy said.

In last year's Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests, the Dighton-Rehoboth school district finished 81st in The Boston Globe's ranking of test scores, ahead of all neighboring towns except Norton, which ranked 75th.

This story ran in the Boston Globe on 4/27/2002.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company
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