From the Boston Globe

By Globe Staff, September 12, 2004


House for sale at 295 Westford St. for $729,000

Town Hall in Dunstable. (Globe photos)

Miles from Boston: 34
Population: 3,126
Median house price: $450,000
Tax rate: $14.07
Transportation: Routes 3, 113
Best things: Rural ambience
Worst things: Distance from Boston
MCAS: Groton-Dunstable Regional School District was ranked 15th out of 210 state school districts, sharing that ranking with Longmeadow, Needham, Newton, and Nashoba Regional school system, a 2003 Boston Globe analysis found.
Census facts: Median family income was $92,270, compared to national rate of $50,046; 44 percent have a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to national rate of 24 percent.
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DUNSTABLE -- The lure that this town on the New Hampshire border has on its current residents can be explained with the word "no."

There is no neon-drenched shopping plaza here. There is no industrial zone reeking of exhaust. There is no high turnover among its residents, and there is no daily gridlock on the main roads.

What this town does offer is a highly rated regional school system with neighboring Groton, two-acre minimum housing lot zoning, at least three working farms, and easy access to the expanding Route 3, I-495, and sales-tax-free New Hampshire.

"It's hard to explain," said Jon N. Crandall Jr., a realtor and a native of Dunstable now looking to move back home. "It's a unique town, sort of countryish, but you are close to everything else."

Crandall, of Century 21 Landmark Realty in Chelmsford, has carefully followed growth in his hometown and reports that there are about 960 homes in Dunstable, and only 40 to 50 come on the market annually.

"People tend to buy there and stay there," he said.

Prices for lots -- minimum two acres plus 200 feet of frontage -- currently range from $175,000 to $275,000. The low end of the market for existing homes runs from $300,000 to $400,000, he said.

"There is no affordable housing in town," said Crandall. Most houses go for $500,000 to more than $700,000, but most stay below $1 million.

On on a recent week, 13 properties were listed ranging from $369,000 for a four-bedroom, three-bath, 1,620-square-foot home to $729,900 for a four-bedroom, 2-bath, 4,160-square-foot home. Median sales price for a single-family home in July was $450,000, according to the Warren Group, a real estate information publisher.

Two developers have proposed separate projects under Chapter 40B -- the zoning law that gives developers fast-track approval for building market-rate homes if there is an affordable-housing component -- that are now making their way through the state regulatory process, said Town Clerk Carol A. Skerrett.

A new middle school has been built on the Groton-Dunstable line, making it easier for parents in both communities to get their children to school and to shorten the bus rides of today's students.

Crandall, who now lives in Westford, is looking for the right piece of land to buy for himself and his family. He said the school system will save him private tuition bills, and he will regain the small-town environment where "you can't go anywhere without seeing 100 people you know."


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