Ashland group asks town to buy Valentine property
The Ashland Historical Commission wants the town to use community preservation money to buy and preserve the historic Valentine estate, where police Saturday night discovered more than 20 birds used for illegal fighting.
“It’s a piece of property we have been watching for several years,” said Robert Winterhalter, a member of the Historical Commission and Community Preservation Committee. “We have watched it go from bad to worse to terrible.”
Police officers, representatives of the Animal Rescue League of Boston and federal Immigration Customs Enforcement agents raided the house Saturday night, where they found more than 20 South American saffron finches and about 40 cages specially-designed for bird fighting.
Police said this week an arrest warrant has been issued for the person they believed owned the birds.
Foreclosure proceedings on the property got under way in July and a Woburn firm was scheduled to auction off the property March 10. the land was transferred to Swift Acquisitions in a short sale last Friday, and the auction was canceled.
According to the Secretary of State’s Web site, Swift Acquisitions is managed by Philip Ottaviani, the chairman of Framingham’s Zoning Board of Appeals.
The previous owner of the property was former Deputy State Treasurer Robert Foley, who pleaded guilty in 2002 to stealing $2.5 million from the state treasurer’s office and spent time in prison. He could not be reached for comment.
Winterhalter talked about the Historical Commission’s interest in the property Wednesday night, when he was under the impression the auction was still on.
“It was kind of a surprise to read it in the paper this morning,” he said yesterday about last Friday’s sale. “But we filed our request and we don’t intend to withdraw it.”
As the new owner, Ottaviani said he has no plans for the property yet – except to clean it up.
“Anything that happened at that property won’t be happening for long,” he said.
When asked if he would consider a sale to the Historical Commission, Ottaviani said, “Anything is for sale. If somebody wanted to make us an offer, I’m sure we would listen.”
The Ashland Community Preservation Committee is holding open hearings March 1, where groups can apply for funding for projects that meet CPA requirements.
The house at 133 West Union St., known locally as the Valentine estate, was one of the first settled properties in town.
In 2008, there were plans to raze the house and build an 80-unit assisted living facility in its place. the developer, however, backed out after the Historical Commission delayed the project, claiming the barn attached to the house is of historical significance.
The wealthy Valentine family of Boston acquired the land in the 1750s, according to an account written for the town Historical Commission.
While the house has been extensively renovated, the post-and-beam barn dates back to the 1700s or 1800s.
(Kendall Hatch can be reached at 508-626-4429 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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