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January 20, 2008

ASHLAND - Santa Claus, in person, stops here. So does the MBTA commuter rail. And three major roads are, well, down the road a piece.

Those facts paint the picture of this town - a family-centric environment where private groups assure that St. Nicholas makes an appearance in town every Christmas, and which is also close enough to commute to Boston, with quick access to Metrowest

"It's a great town to raise your kids in," said Town Manager John Petrin.

But like other communities, he said, municipal finances remain strained; the town laid off workers in 2006 and voters last year rejected a Proposition 2 1/2 override.

Despite the budget issues, the school system is a solid performer - high schoolers were in the top 50 in MCAS results for 2007 - anchored by the two-year-old high school building.

Petrin notes the town has easy access to Route 9, I-495, and the Massachusetts Turnpike. "We are off the highway a little bit, which is not so helpful for economic development, but is great for the living aspect." He said housing stock includes apartments, condos, and single-family homes.

Green space includes Ashland State Park and the Hopkinton State Park, both of which offer swimming. Last year, voters approved spending $1.6 million to buy 33 acres of Weston Nurseries property to preserve for open space and water supply protection.

The town was a farming community until linked to Boston by the MassPike and commuter rail. It was incorporated in 1846 and was once the site of a footpath connecting Native American communities.

On a recent week, listed 45 single-family homes, ranging from $175,000 for a two-bed, one-bath, 645-square-foot home to $799,00 for a four-bed, 2.5 bath 3,600-square-foot home. Median price of a single-family home through last November was $370,000, according to Warren Group, which publishes real estate information.


Miles from Boston 22

Population 15,678

Median house price $370,000 (Jan. - Nov. 2007)

Tax rate $12.92

Average single-family property tax $5,338 (State 2007 average $3,962)

Transportation Routes 126, 135. MBTA commuter rail. Member, Metrowest Regional Transit Authority.

MCAS Among 293 systems, 10th-graders ranked 37 in English and 46 in math, according to a Globe analysis of 2007 results. Sixth-graders ranked 133 out of 309 systems in English and 69 in math, according to Globe analysis of 2006 MCAS results. Third-graders ranked 201 out of 299 systems in reading and 188 in math. Member, South Middlesex Regional Vocational Technical School system.

Census facts Median family income is $77,611 compared to national rate of $50,046 and 46 percent held a bachelor's degree or higher compared to national rate of 24 percent. Website

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