STOCKBRIDGE -- The Prospect Hill home of the late Jack and Jane Fitzpatrick will become the headquarters of a nonprofit educational foundation.

At its meeting this past week, the Select Board approved 3-0 a special permit allowing the change of use for the estate.

The Tavitian Foundation will relocate its offices to the prime property overlooking the town. Its founder and president is Aso Tavitian of Woodcliff Lake, N.J., an Armenian-American philanthropist and financier who has a second home next door to the Fitzpatrick property. The transaction price exceeds $2 million.

Representing Tavitian at the Select Board's second review of the application, attorney Philip Heller emphasized the foundation's educational mission. He was armed with 18 supportive letters from residents and immediate neighbors, including the Marian Fathers and Naumkeag.

At the meeting, Arthur Page, former attorney for Jack and Jane Fitzpatrick and a trustee of the property, described the Tavitian Foundation's mission as "very much in keeping with what Jack and Jane would like." Page commended Tavitian as "a gentleman and a man of his word."

Also attending the session were the Fitzpatricks' daughters, Nancy and Ann.

Prospect Hill neighbor Carole Owens, a local historian and author, said Tavitian had assured her that "the property would maintain its residential character" and that he would contribute to the town in lieu of taxes. "Based on knowing him for three decades, he's good to his word," she said.


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Dr. Eric Plakun, associate medical director-CEO at the nearby Austen Riggs Center psychiatric facility, cited the foundation's use of the building and its assurances about maintaining it as "a wonderful opportunity to preserve the neighborhood and the property."

Selectman Chuck Gillett voiced appreciation for Tavitian's "willingness to enter into this agreement ... he fully respects the character of the neighborhood and the architecture of the building." Future construction would avoid water runoff down Prospect Hill, according to the binding written agreement written into the deed, and any new accessory buildings would be limited to 35 feet in height.

Most importantly, Gillett emphasized, the agreement will apply to future owners. "I congratulate Mr. Tavitian for agreeing to these points," he said.

"We insisted and Mr. Tavitian agreed to enter into this written agreement," said Select Board Chairman Stephen Shatz. "That will provide more than a measure of protection to the building and some measure of zoning control so neighbors will never be faced with a Boston College-style dormitory."

He was referring to state laws giving wide latitude to educational and religious nonprofits that seek to expand their properties.

Heller explained that the 9-acre site will be used by up to five foundation employees who oversee financial assistance to selected college students, mostly from Eastern Europe, and organize programs supporting the arts and addressing "issues of global significance."

"All of the work is 100 percent focused on the educational aspect of the foundation," he declared.

By accepting the scholarships and grants, the students agree to return to their country after completing their education at Boston and New York universities "in order to shore up ties between those countries and the U.S.," Heller explained.

Groups of 15 students at a time will attend classroom seminars, lectures and workshops given by university professors at the foundation's new home.

Employees will also review grant applications from research programs at various "think tanks."

The foundation supports cultural and educational organizations in Stockbridge and nearby towns.

During the past five to six years, Heller noted, $1.5 million in grants have been given to the Norman Rockwell Museum, the Berkshire Theatre Festival, the Berkshire Botanical Garden, Chesterwood, the Austen Riggs Center, the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, the Laurel Hill Association and Tanglewood.

To contact Clarence Fanto:
cfanto@yahoo.com
or (413) 637-2551.