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Chelmsford

A new library opened recently for students at Chelmsford High. Schools were listed as a reason for the town's high ranking in a 2007 magazine survey of best places to live. A new library opened recently for students at Chelmsford High. Schools were listed as a reason for the town's high ranking in a 2007 magazine survey of best places to live. (LISA POOLE FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE)
December 14, 2008
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Median home price: Single family, $325,000; Condominiums, $217,500
Residential tax rate: $13.50
Average tax bill: $5,105
Choice location: The 6.8-mile portion of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail that passes through Chelmsford is expected to open in 2009. Backers hope the bike path will one day link Lowell and Framingham.
Cocktail party nugget: Before taking over his brother's school in Roxbury, Ralph Waldo Emerson opened and operated a school in Chelmsford for several months in 1825.
SOURCES: Warren Group, Massachusetts Department of Revenue, Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

THE GOODS: Chelmsford residents don't have to rely solely on hometown pride when they boast about their community. In 2007, Money magazine ranked Chelmsford as the 21st best place to live in the United States. The list focused on smaller communities that offered a good mix of "economic opportunity, good schools, safe streets, things to do, and a real sense of community."

PROS: Chelmsford is almost two towns within a single community. To the north, the section that borders Lowell is more dense and industrial, while southern sections are almost rural in character.

Residents are fond of a series of smaller neighborhoods, each of which offers its own unique character. Recent growth, however, is diminishing some of the rural flavor, with new subdivisions - some with home prices pushing seven figures - cropping up in recent years. The higher end of the housing market has bulky new Colonials mixing with graceful or gently used antiques. The midmarket has many roomy properties, some on the plain side, though there are period homes in the mix as well.

CONS: Despite its proximity to major highways, transportation and traffic have been ongoing issues. The Drum Hill Rotary off Route 3 was demolished after several crashes. Traffic lights in Chelmsford Center have eased, but not eliminated, congestion at the junction of Routes 4, 110, and 129.

DAVE COPELAND

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