AVON, Colorado - After nearly a year, the clock is starting to tick more rapidly to finish a settlement in a pair of lawsuits with the developers of the Village at Avon.
Those lawsuits - one each filed by the town and developers - date to 2009, and have cost both parties millions in legal fees. A settlement "term sheet" to end the case without going to court was signed in October of last year, just weeks before the cases were to go to trial. Since then, the town and developers have spent untold hours, and still more in legal fees, to reach a final settlement that involves a host of changes to the plan originally approved in 1998.
Earlier this year, at the urging of District Judge Thomas Moorhead, the developers and the town set an October deadline to get the deal done. Looming past October are a couple of complications.
The first is the Nov. 6 election, which will bring two, and perhaps three, new members to the Avon Town Council.
Council members Amy Phillips and Kristi Ferraro are leaving due to term limits laws. Buz Reynolds is running for re-election.
Phillips and fellow council member Chris Evans said that change makes it imperative to bring some kind of resolution to the case before those council members leave.
Evans, who was elected to the council in 2010, had previously served on the Avon Planning and Zoning Commission, so he was somewhat familiar with the details of the cases. Despite that, Evans called learning details facing the council as "drinking from a fire hose."
Phillips said getting up to speed would be even more difficult for candidates who aren't on the planning commission. And, she added, with this year' multitude of executive sessions - meetings between the council and lawyers that are closed to the public - there's simply no way a candidate can have anything like the amount of information needed to make a quick decision on the topic.
"One way or another, we have to call it to a vote by this council," Phillips said.
Beyond the need to get a vote from this council is the prospect of another trial. If the parties can't finish this settlement, Moorhead has set another trial date early next year.
"If we go back to court, nobody wins," Evans said, adding that no matter who ultimately prevails in court, the case would end up stretching for years, and would probably end up in the Colorado Supreme Court for final resolution.
Despite the hours and hours of meetings, by both the town council and planning commission, and stiff opposition from neighbors, both Phillips and Evans said they're optimistic the deal can be finalized.
"We're making good progress," Evans said. But he added, the revisions to the existing plan are ultimately the responsibility of the developers.
"It's up to them to decide what to listen to," he said.
Phillips agreed that there's been progress on the changes to the original plan, but wondered if there aren't some items that the parties may have fundamental disagreements about.
Marcus Lindholm, part of the family that's developed the Village at Avon, acknowledged that the past year has been a lot of work for everyone. But, he added, he remains confident a deal can be finished.
"We can get bogged down in details, but the reality is that we have a settlement agreement," Lindholm said. "That settlement agreement was entered into because it was beneficial to all the parties."