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Updated: February 24, 2020 Town Profile: Avon

Developer eyes second project attempt on fiercely guarded Avon golf course land

HBJ Photo | Matt Pilon A well-organized group of local residents stands ready to combat development proposals along Avon’s Nod Road. Their next battle could be coming soon.

NIMBYism runs rampant in some Connecticut communities, but a well-organized Avon citizen group with deeper-than-average pockets has taken the “not-in-my-backyard” approach to a new level and notched several recent victories.

However, the biggest test yet may be ahead for the activist organization, called Save Nod Road, whose opposition helped block a major single-family housing development and more recently, a senior-living facility along the bucolic two-lane road for which the group is named.

Simsbury developer Anthony Giorgio, whose plans to build 95 upscale single-family homes on a portion of Blue Fox Run golf course were dashed by stiff local opposition and a zone-change denial last September, says he’s plotting a comeback.

Giorgio, managing director of The Keystone Companies LLC, told HBJ he is negotiating the purchase of 52 acres from Blue Fox Run, a deal he hopes to close by April.

The course, which would likely shrink from 27 to 18 holes if the deal goes through, would use the proceeds to make improvements, according to Giorgio, who said he hasn’t yet settled on his next development proposal for the land.

He’s keeping his options close to the vest for now. However, he’s not planning another large-scale, single-family home development.

“Obviously we can’t go down that path again,” Giorgio said. “I’m not going to go into that quagmire.”

Another option Giorgio was considering until recently was a retirement community. However, another developer’s plan to build age-restricted, 55-plus condos just down the road from the golf course also faced local resistance.

Nebraska-based developer Cameron General Contractors recently floated the age-restricted housing plan but ultimately abandoned the site, following a cool reception from some planning board members who felt the project would be too dense. A preliminary project meeting last fall was also attended by dozens of Save Nod Road members, signaling a difficult fight ahead for the project, said David Richman, a Save Nod Road board member.

“There was so much opposition [Cameron General Contractors] heard from the board that they decided ‘we’re not going to do it,’ ” Richman recounted.

A Cameron official confirmed the firm is pursuing other sites in town for its 55-plus development, but declined to comment on its reasoning for shelving the Nod Road location.

Giorgio is a longtime developer whose resume includes the $40-million Dorset Crossing mixed-use project in Avon, Stonebridge Estate luxury condos in West Hartford, and manufacturing and bioscience facilities in Pennsylvania, Florida and elsewhere.

He said Save Nod Road members are likely to oppose whatever he ultimately pitches, but he also isn’t willing to give up on his hopes for Blue Fox Run.

”We do believe that it’s a very good piece of developable property and we’ve invested a lot of money in it already,” he said. “I think there’s always an opportunity to do something. It’s a question of how it’s packaged and how it’s presented.”

Lisa Wilson-Foley, who owns the golf course, could not be reached for comment.

[Read more: HBJ examines developments in CT towns, cities]

Save Nod Road is a bit more official than loosely organized groups that crop up in many towns to oppose a particular project.

It won nonprofit status in 2018, and since then, Save Nod Road Preservation Inc. has raised approximately $100,000, according to president Chris Carville, who owns the Pickin’ Patch, a 353-year-old farm on Nod Road that’s among the oldest in the state.

It used some of that money to hire attorneys and other experts during the fight against Giorgio’s housing proposal, Richman said.

The nonprofit’s mission is to promote and expand permanent land preservation and responsible land management and protect wildlife in the Farmington Valley.

While Carville declined to discuss what, if any, hypothetical Nod Road developments the group may support, he said members oppose any projects on Blue Fox Run.

Another major concern the group has is traffic.

Richman, the Save Nod Road board member, moved to a condo community located just off Nod Road a few years ago.

Since then, he said he has seen traffic backups grow at both ends of the long thoroughfare, which drivers use to cut between Routes 10 and 44.

“The area as a whole cannot absorb any more traffic,” Richman said.

Even if nothing is ever built again on Nod Road, he predicts traffic will continue to increase, due to other nearby developments, such as the massive Avon Village Center mixed-use project now under construction just a few miles away down Route 44, which will be anchored by Whole Foods.

Richman, a commercial real estate investor-landlord and health insurance benefits broker by trade, said he sees no irony in his opposition to development on his street, which many would characterize as NIMBYism.

“I’m pro development,” he insisted. “It’s about smart development and it’s also about where it is.”

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