AVON - Even when pushed by a watchful judge, the wheels of local government can sometimes bog down.
Facing a room full of skeptical residents, the Avon Town Council Tuesday asked for more information and slowed the process of approving an amended land use plan for the Village at Avon project.
The amended plan for the 1,700-acre project is part of a settlement package for a pair of lawsuits dating back to 2009. The town and the developers are both suing each other for alleged violations of the original 1998 "planned unit development" agreement. In October of last year, the parties involved in the suit agreed to a "settlement term sheet," just a couple of weeks before a trial was scheduled to start. That announcement has led to untold hours of closed-door meetings by the council.
The results of those negotiations were made public this spring, which has brought the process into public view. This spring also brought new urgency from District Judge Thomas Moorhead, who has told the parties it's time to get the deal done.
Tuesday's meeting included plenty of comments about the plan, mostly from the property's nearest neighbors.
The new plan includes commercial space in an area once reserved for housing, which has sparked the most concern.
Betty Todd lives in the Canyon Run neighborhood. She told the council she's worried about some newly-proposed light-industrial uses on the property adjacent to existing homes.
"That doesn't fit with the town's original vision," Todd said.
Resident Joe Walker asked for a show of hands from those who understood the planning maps submitted so far. No hands were raised.
"We'd like to ask for clarity on these planning areas," Walker said, adding that the more people understand the plan, the better they'll understand the impacts on their town property values.
Most of those who spoke said the process of approving the amended land use plan is simply moving too fast. Former mayor Ron Wolfe said he's confident the town will get to an appropriate settlement, but that the timeline is "really unworkable."
Town council members apparently agreed, eventually voting for a two-week delay so they could see how current maps compare with the original 1998 plan and other information.
But, one attorney said the longer the process lingers, the more the attorney-fee meter runs.
"Every day that goes by costs you as taxpayers more money," said Brandee Caswell, an attorney for BNP Paribas, the international bank that holds the revenue bonds for the project. "This agreement was approved to ease real, significant financial burdens. Those burdens increase the longer this goes on."
With that understanding, council members said they want to reach a final settlement.
"It's in the town's best interest," council member Chris Evans said. But, he added, "If we can't come to something that works for the town, I'm not opposed to going back to litigation. But if we go back (to court), there will be no winners."