BY LARRY GREENE
4:49 PM EST, February 21, 2013
The Village at Crystal Springs is an oasis. This bucolic retreat for active adults over 55 is comprised of 106 acres tucked into the Tolland countryside. Here, flora and fauna have elbow room; humans occupy less than a third of the acreage.
When completed, The Village at Crystal Springs will consist of 66 free-standing condominium homes on the site of the former Crystal Springs Farm. Most of the homes are located in the center of the 106-acre property, while the rest of the homes stretch away in opposite directions like two wings. Most of the property will be preserved as natural space.
Trails twine throughout Crystal Springs, crossing mown pastures, a reclaimed orchard and the top of a woodsy ridgeline. Benches and two gazebos provide places to rest, eat and watch the abundant wildlife. Bridges and boardwalks traverse wetlands and streams. Crystal Springs borders the 120-acre Campbell’s Peaceful Valley Conservation Area. There is no threat of commercialization.
"Looking out, you can’t see any houses, just trees," says Rudy Fiorillo, one of the homeowners at Crystal Springs. He waves his arm towards the large and numerous windows lining his living room and sunroom. "Fall is like a Picasso painting," he continues. "The environment here, it’s absolutely beautiful every season."
Crystal Springs is a microcosm of Tolland, which was number 37 on Money Magazine’s "Best Places to Live" list ranking the top 100 small cities in America. The magazine states, "This charming rural town has done a great job of preserving its historic district, Tolland Green, which dates to the 1700s." Tolland Green is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. More than 50 early19th-century buildings make up Tolland Green including the Old Tolland County Jail and Museum run by the Tolland Historical Society and the Hicks-Stearns Family Museum. Town offices, the mutual aid building and the library are within the historic area. Also included is the old town hall which was saved from the wrecking ball and is now an art center.
Close to Crystal Springs, Cardio Express and the Star Hill Family Athletic Center provide indoor exercise opportunities. Outdoor recreation abounds. Fishing, canoeing and kayaking are popular pastimes thanks to waterways like the Willimantic River and the Skungamaug River, Shenipsit Lake and Lake Bonair. Hiking, cross-country skiing and more can be enjoyed in Nye-Holman State Forest, Kollar Wildlife Management Area and Heron Cove Park.
"It’s why we love this place," says Fiorillo of the town’s natural beauty. "We wanted to be part of a rural New England community and close to the cities. This is a performing artist’s dream at an affordable price." Fiorillo is a pianist and his wife, Cathy, is a vocalist and violinist. The proximity to Hartford, New Haven, even New York City and Boston, played a part in their decision to move to Tolland. They don’t have far to travel to visit some of the finest artistic venues in the nation and the world.
"We came up and spent an entire week looking at over-55 developments all over Connecticut," says Fiorillo. The couple resided in Washington, D.C. before moving to Crystal Springs four years ago. "When we saw the model, we decided to make a down payment," says Cathy. They spent an entire day looking at lots and made a down payment the next day.
The roomy square footage of the Ashley A floor plan they selected is surprising given the home’s façade. The design looks like a one-story home with an attached two-car garage. In the rear, the living space expands behind the garage and includes a second-floor office, bedroom and full bath for a total of 1,939 square feet. Being built into a hill allows a walk-out basement and gives the home a rear view of three stories.
Although the Ashley A plan is the only plan in seven that doesn’t feature a cathedral ceiling, it does boast the most square footage. As with all the floor plans, the master bedroom suite resides on the first floor. The plans do allow for alterations as the Fiorillos gratefully discovered. "The flexibility we had, moving a wall or a window, that was great," says Cathy. "We had times during construction when we got a new idea and they did it,” says Fiorillo. “Each house here is so different on the interior."
Homebuyers meet with the various sub-contractors to select cabinets, lighting and trim work. "It was amazing," says Cathy. "The vendors were excellent; their suggestions were excellent." The Fiorillos were also impressed with the personal relationship between the vendors and the developers, Kathie Amedy and her late husband Steve, owners of Crystal Springs Farms, LLC. Kathie Amedy still resides in Crystal Springs.
The Fiorillos opted for generous crown molding and a gorgeously framed propane fireplace in the living room. The fireplace can warm the entire home. This is where neighborhood guests gather for Christmas sing-a-longs while Fiorillo plays his baby grand piano.
Standard home features include nine-foot ceilings and transom windows on the first floor, tankless hot water heaters, solid wood cabinets and Energy Star recommended climate control systems. Propane is used for fireplaces, the hot air furnaces, kitchen stoves (although electric stoves are an option), and outdoor grills. "The quality of the building here is phenomenal," says Fiorillo.
"We love our neighbors," says Cathy. People throughout the village invite neighbors over for holiday celebrations, Memorial Day picnics and spaghetti dinners. There are neighborhood book clubs, scrabble games and golf excursions. "We make Thanksgiving baskets for the needy families in Tolland," says Cathy. "On Halloween, instead of candy, we give toys and little things to Connecticut Children’s Hospital."
Of the 66 lots originally created, only 13 lots are left to sell. The well-appointed model home is also for sale. It features a number of upgrades such as a fireplace and second-floor dormer, and lists for $339,900, a savings of $35,618 off the original value.
A monthly association fee of $311 covers homeowner insurance, maintenance on home exteriors, snow removal and landscaping care.
An open house is held every Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. at the model home at 16 Weigel Valley Drive in Tolland. For more information on the community contact Kathie Amedy of Crystal Springs Farms at 860-798-9505.
Builder: Connecticut Heritage Homes, Mike Stosonis
Price: $317,900 to $367,500
Style: Contemporary condominiums
Rooms: 5 to 7
Baths: 2 to 2.5
Square footage: 1,343 to 1,939 square feet
Acreage: 106 acres total
Tax rate: 29.9 mills
Best features: Free-standing, spacious condominiums in a rural setting
Contact: Kathie Amedy, Crystal Springs Farms LLC, 860-798-9505
Larry Greene is a freelance writer based in Norwich.
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