AVON, Colorado - After nearly a year of private meetings and public hearings, it's time for the Avon Town Council to cast the most important vote yet on a proposed settlement between the town and the developers of the Village at Avon.
The town and developers have been embroiled in a pair of lawsuits since 2009. Each party has spent millions in legal fees so far, with millions more at stake in sales tax revenue, development rights, and the cost of revenue bonds issued to pay for roads and other public improvements on the property.
The Village at Avon was first approved in the late 1990s, but to get the settlement done, the town has to pass a complex set of changes to the original land-use agreement. Those amendments include changes to what can be built throughout the development, and in some cases revises the approval process for certain areas of the 1,700-acre subdivision.
Those changes have come under intense scrutiny from some residents. Residents of the Eaglebend neighborhood have been particularly vocal about the relatively short time town officials have had to review the changes, and are urging the council to reject the package.
But rejecting the land-use changes is likely to put the case back into court. District Judge Thomas Moorhead has his calendar blocked out for a trial in early 2013 if the parties can't complete this settlement.
Howard Leavitt lives in Wildridge, but is among the deal's opponents. Leavitt said the town needs to go back to court if it can't forge an agreement that benefits the town.
"In the long run, it would be money well spent if it ensures well-planned growth," Leavitt said.
The Avon Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended that the council deny the changes to the existing plan, but that recommendation isn't binding. Only the council can vote to either approve the ordinance authorizing the changes - pending a second vote at the Sept. 25 council meeting. If the council votes to deny the changes, this form of the settlement is finished.
If that happens, council member Amy Phillips said that board will have spent a "groundhog year" of work, referring to the 1980's movie "Groundhog Day." Phillips guessed she's spent somewhere between 300 and 500 hours in meetings and document study. Other council members have put a similar amount of time.
Despite that time commitment, Phillips said she believes there hasn't been enough time to fully review the proposed changes.
"It seems like we're always lagging behind on this," she said.
Phillips and other council members are limited in what they can say about the proposal so far, but Phillips acknowledged that a vote to reject the ordinance will sent the settlement deal back to the lawyers, if not to court.
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.