By John Fitts - Editor
AVON — The Inland Wetlands Commission April 2 denied an application that sought to amend the town’s official wetlands map for the Blue Fox Run Golf Course.
Anthony Giorgio, developer of Keystone Companies, LLC, and Bill Ferrigno of Sunlight Construction are looking to build The Residences at Blue Fox Run — 95 single-family, detached homes and three to five “estate” homes on approximately 45 to 50 acres of the 224-acre course.
The application, however, only dealt with wetlands boundaries, and controversy ensued over the application, particularly the designation of flood plain or alluvial soils, material deposited by flowing water, such as the Farmington River. It sought to designate an additional 13.47 acres of alluvial soils, reduce another 22.45 acres of alluvial soils, and add an additional 4.35 acres of additionally flagged wetlands. An approximate 12-acre “blob” on the town’s map that would no longer be classified as alluvial soils became particularly controversial.
The team looking for the change said the evidence presented by two soil scientists clearly showed the need for the change, more accurately depicted site conditions and was similar to a map accepted by the commission in 2004.
Opponents, particularly the nonprofit Nod Road Preservation Inc., which had been granted party status in the matter, questioned the methodology used to define the limits of the soils, which all agreed had been heavily disturbed with past agriculture activity and golf course development.
On April 2, all five commissioners present voted against the amendment.
Avon resident Jessika Jackson said it brought a “humongous” amount of relief.
“We all know that we weren’t supposed to be looking at the motives for them changing the wetlands map, but obviously when they’ve hired their own soil scientist and there’s no other soil scientist looking at it from an opposing side you just have to wonder if their information was slanted or skewed in any way. So, I’m really, really pleased.”
Giorgio offered a different take.
“Obviously I’m disappointed,” he said. “They made a decision based on what they thought the facts were. I don’t agree with that, but they made a decision and we’ll just move on from here.”
During the three nights of the public hearing, much talk centered around a 2004 application for the property, which included a map that also did not classify the “blob” as wetlands. In light of the commission’s approval at the time, the applicants described that map as “legally significant.” Opponents, on the other hand, said times have changed, climate change a factor, and said the town’s official map is a good one. Opponents also countered that the applicant had caused much confusion and led an unsuccessful push for the plan to be withdrawn, while allowing testimony to be carried over to any new application.
After the vote, Giorgio didn’t comment specifically on whether the team would take legal recourse.
“This is a minor setback in a long process. The decision was grounded in political emotion and not the facts,” he said. “It is unfortunate that our scientific experts were not recognized, and the rationale used to deny was not based upon any concise or precise evidence, which should always [be] the basis for this type of decision. We will see what the future will bring because this is not over yet.”
Nod Road Preservation co-presidents Robin Baran and Christopher Carville said in a joint statement Wednesday, “Last night was an important win for our cause. We are grateful to everyone for their support and we know we couldn't have accomplished what we have so far without a strong community behind us. We are also grateful to the Avon Inland Wetlands Commission for their patience and thoughtful approach towards this important vote.”
Giorgio did say, as he has in the past, that he still plans to submit a zone change application for a portion of the property with the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission.
“We will continue to move through the town’s approval process with the submission of a zone change application this month,” he said. “We anticipate that the first public hearing on the zone change application will be in mid to late May,” he said. “Our business is steeped in a variety of ups and downs, but in the long run, good land use planning and value-added developments prevail. The community of Avon, along with the rest of the Farmington Valley, will benefit by the Residences at Blue Fox Run. This best way to preserve the land, add value to the community and build upon the wonderful quality of life in Avon is through this new development.”
Nod Road Preservation contends the best way to preserve the land is to not build on it, but agrees it’s going to be a long process.
“While we are very pleased with the outcome of the vote, and feel we are headed in the right direction, we know this fight is far from over,” their statement read. “We are planning our next steps and look future success.”