Valentine Property Committee
- Michael Herbert, Town Manager
- Judith Eneguess
- Margy Gassel
- Scott Lubell, Clerk @(Model.BulletStyle == CivicPlus.Entities.Modules.Layout.Enums.BulletStyle.Decimal ? "ol" : "ul")>
- Cedrik Bacon
- Susan Schare
- Myles McConnon
- Vacant @(Model.BulletStyle == CivicPlus.Entities.Modules.Layout.Enums.BulletStyle.Decimal ? "ol" : "ul")>
Email the committee: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Valentine Property
The Valentine Property Committee has been hard at work over the last year trying to find the perfect fit for the future of the Valentine Property located at 133 West Union Street. After investigating and hearing presentations from similar projects in neighboring communities, the Committee developed a list of ideas and uses for this unique, historic property. This includes, but is not limited to, a performance space, a farm-to-table homestead and restaurant, a bed-and-breakfast, and a community farm. After costing out alternatives, these plans are prohibitively expensive for the Town of Ashland to do alone, as just restoring the property structurally would be a multi-million dollar endeavor.
The Valentine Property Committee collectively decided that the next best option is to try and put together a public/private partnership, hopefully joining with the not-for-profit or for-profit sectors to create a viable and self-sustaining community asset. The town has since created and a request for proposals (RFP) to see if there is any interest from outside entities to help develop that partnership.
The property itself consists of 7.67 acres, a historic barn, and a residence located at 133 West Union Street, Ashland MA. The Town is hopeful that someone will step forward to bring life back to the historic Valentine Barn, a 21/2 story gable front barn which was built in the 1750s and moved to the property during the early to mid-1800s. The original beauty of the barn remains and could serve many different functions. The Valentine Residence is a 19th century Colonial. 14 rooms, 8 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, and 4 fireplaces could serve as a lovely B&B or home for a caretaker.
It is situated on Route 135 which connects the network of cities and towns throughout MetroWest. Ashland is the heart of MetroWest; it is 30 minutes from Boston and 30 minutes from Worcester.
The Valentine property holds much promise and we look forward to partnering with someone who shares the community vision of bringing life back into this site while preserving its rich history
Frequently Asked Questions
How much did the town pay for the property?
The Valentine Property was purchased after a town vote at Town Meeting and election in 2018 for $3.5 million, comprising of $600,000 of CPA funds and the remainder funded through a debt exclusion. An additional $100,000 in CPA funds was appropriated at the same time for maintenance and upkeep of the barn and house.
Why isn’t the town developing the property? Do we have to sell the property in order to redevelop it?
After discussions with contractors, the estimate to just simply restore the barn and the house would be millions of dollars. This does not include any additions to make this property a functional restaurant, artist venue, or similar. This is due state laws such as the prevailing wage law and procurement laws, which increase the cost of public construction projects versus similar projects done in the private sector.
The RFP process gives us the flexibility to use the private and non-profit sectors capital and lower construction costs, while also giving us the ability to maintain the important characteristics that led to the purchase of the property in the first place. Any partnership would require deed restrictions to maintain open space as well as the important historical elements of the house and barn. These restrictions run with the land, meaning they cannot be altered.
There are options to both lease and purchase the property.
What condition is the property in?
The Town is concerned with the integrity of the Barn. While experts have rated the frame an “A”, meaning it is generally in great condition, the substructure and roof are in need of immediate repair. The roof has rotted and the Town has tried to slow deterioration by installing a tarp and constructing a temp covering for the roof.
Repairs include, but are not limited to:
- Addressing the roof as the roof sheathing has rotted. Tarps have been installed to prevent further damage.
- Reinforcing or removing the lofts on the left and right sides.
- Addressing foundation where it is caving into the well.
-Addressing substructure issues such as the rotted sill, rotted joints, and compromised beams, and footings.
- The verticals are all inadequate on footings that are too small.
For the house, the Town has repaired the chimney and ensured that the home is weather tight. It is expected that it will require all new mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. Currently the site does not have a working septic system.
How are we going to make sure we protect the town’s interest?
Preserving the history and open space of this property has always been of the utmost importance to the committee when discussing the future of the site. The required deed restrictions will run with the property in perpetuity. Therefore, any future owner must comply will both the historical preservation and open space requirements, which outline the need to maintain:
- The original form of the home (additions may be altered or demolition with proper consent from the Ashland Historical Society and Ashland Historical Commission)
- 2 fireplaces in the entryway
- Wide pine floors
- The Barn renovation must include all structural components of the barn’s roof, including but not limited to: Anchor beams, arcade posts, braces, collars and collar ties, queen posts, and purlin plates
- Outside walls of the barn (in order to maintain the interior)
- The protected open space must be public accessible
Can housing be built there?
This property is currently zoned as Residential A. The Valentine Committee has found that this property has a great deal of potential for commercial use. Based on the input of the committee, Town planning staff has been working with the Planning Board to create an overlay district that will allow the Town to achieve its vision for this property. We will be asking residents at town meeting to approve a zoning change to create an overlay district that will allow for preferred uses. These uses for the adaptive reuse of this property include, but are not limited to, creating an opportunity for:
- Educational or community programs
- Event space or community art/theater space
- Bed and breakfast
- Co-working commercial kitchen
The purpose of establishing the Valentine Overlay District (VOD) Zoning Bylaw is to promote economic development and the vitality of the corridor, preserve the historical and agricultural character of the district and foster a sense of community through its commercial uses. It will require the applicant to obtain approval and special permit.
Would the community be able to use the space for events? Farming?
The Valentine Committee put great emphasis on the importance of the public’s availability for active public use. The Open Space deed restriction requires has to protected portion of the property. Additionally, the proposal will be scored based on the extent that proposal will engage a wide range of residents in its proposed uses:
- Provides opportunities for the community to access and actively use the required open space; higher points will be awarded if the proposer can identify opportunities to provide creative access to the open space such as hosting a Story Walk for the community or allowing outdoor environmental classroom opportunities.
- Provides an opportunity for the community to participate in a community farm;
- Provides opportunities to allow Town sponsored meetings and events to occur on site;
- Provides resident discounts if the proposal includes lodging or function space
Why did we pay so much for the Valentine property?
We paid $3.5 million for the property, far more than what the raw land and buildings were worth. The reason we paid so much is that the developer had already received permits through a Comprehensive Permit (aka 40b) to build 100-133 apartments on the site, and had already secured a contractor to construct those apartments. This fact is reflected in the appraisal which which states, "The purpose of this appraisal is to estimate the market value reflecting the fee simple interest based on the subject property being permitted for a 133-unit residential development."
The decision to purchase the property was just not a Select Board or Town Manager decision. This decision was passed by voters with a very wide margin at both Town Meeting and at the ballot.
Why didn't Ashland have a plan for what to do with it when we ultimately bought the property?
Sometimes, when the opportunities for these purchases present themselves there is a very limited window to act on it. In those cases, we don't have the luxury of time to develop a plan for them. Especially if there is another interested purchaser at the table. But the main premise of purchasing these properties is that it at least preserves our ability to make a plan for the property that is more in line with our values as opposed to a developers. It's virtually impossible to control what happens with land if you don't own it.
What if nobody is interested in partnering? What would prevent a developer from purchasing the property and building 140 units?
Steps are in place to prohibit this from happening. First, any proposal would have to be approved by a number of different entities. First, the Valentine Property Committee would need to accept such a proposal. Second, the Select Board would need to approve such a proposal. Town Meeting would need to be supportive of such a proposal. And the Town Manager would need to approve such a proposal. Considering that the town bought the property at great expense to keep such a dense development from happening, it is doubtful that any of those entities/people would be willing to support such a proposal.
Any purchaser will have to agree with placing a deed restriction on the property prohibiting dense residential development not only for the original purchaser but for future owners as well.
What is the state’s requirement of affordable housing? And what is a Chapter 40 B development?
The state likes to see 10% of a community's housing stock dedicated to affordable housing. If a community is under 10%, or hasn't made demonstrated progress towards that figure, it is subject to a developer coming in and being able to override local zoning and put in super dense developments as long as 25% of those units are considered "affordable" (the state defines what affordable is). This happens through what is known as a Chapter 40 B application.
The Valentine Property is an example of how a 40 B comes to be. By our local zoning several years ago, the only thing that could be built there were 2 single family homes. However, Capital Group Properties was able to submit a 40 B application and get a permit for AT LEAST 99 units (and possibly up to 133) on that same parcel. The reason we ended up having to pay $3.5 million for the property is because it had permits to build that amount of units.
Is there a deed restriction for the Valentine property?
Draft historical and CPA restrictions are part of the RFP package. Deed restrictions limiting development of land is something that has always been part of the Valentine discussion because while 40 B applications can trump zoning, they can't override restrictions placed on the land itself.