AVON, Colorado - The five candidates running for three open Avon Town Council seats agreed on just about everything Thursday evening in a forum hosted by Ruggs Benedict owner Roger Benedict.
The candidates gathered at the Avon council chambers for the informal forum that lasted about an hour. There were eight people in attendance, including Benedict, to hear what the candidates had to say about their qualifications for the role.
Benedict asked three questions:
1. Tell me about yourself and your qualifications.
After 13 years living in the valley, with about 10 in Avon, Gennett said he has worked for Eagle County, the town of Vail and the town of Avon. His planning background and government experience make him qualified, he said, especially as the town seeks some kind of resolution with the Village at Avon project. He said he's dedicated to the town and wants to serve, and is interested in focusing on making Avon more pedestrian friendly.
Avon Elementary music teacher Jake Wolf has lived in and out of the valley for 15 years and has toured with various bands before settling down to teach. He said his outside-the-box thinking can bring different perspectives to the town and hopefully make it a great town. Wolf points to his experience with event planning as one reason he could be an asset, citing the town's need to generate more sales tax revenue.
A former Autozone executive, Minervini moved to Avon about six years ago from Memphis. He loves the town and is serving his second term on the planning and zoning commission. Because of his experience working on the Village at Avon matter for the past year, and because he is someone who likes to complete tasks he has started, he said he could bring valuable experience to the town.
Fancher points to "valuable life and work experience" that would help her in serving the town of Avon. She has lived in the county for 20 years, of which the last 12 she has spent in Avon. She has experience working for metropolitan districts in both Eagle-Vail and Beaver Creek, and thinks that experience would be helpful for the Town Council.
With 12 years experience on the Avon Town Council, Buz Reynolds still has work he wants to complete. He has lived in Avon for 37 years - his mother helped develop the area working for Benchmark Properties and his father also served on the Town Council. Reynolds spent 13 years on the planning and zoning board, too, and has also served as mayor.
2. What's the single most important thing you'd like to accomplish as a council person for the town?
(Every candidate answered that the Traer Creek/Village at Avon development and litigation is the most important issue facing the town.)
The Village at Avon issue won't simply go away, Minervini said. Whatever ends up getting approved still needs a great deal of focus, and Minervini thinks he has what it takes to "hammer out" the details. Because he is someone who completes tasks, he said, he hopes to work on council to "complete this huge task."
Wolf agrees Traer Creek is the biggest issue, but talked more about what the money spent on litigation in the matter is taking away from the town. He said he hopes there's a better path to coming to an agreement with the developers - a path that will free up money and time wasted on litigation for other town improvements.
The town can't afford to miss anything with regards to the Traer Creek development, Gennett said. He, too, said the town has focused so much on the project that it has missed out on other opportunities. He points to the Northside Kitchen and Walgreen's as "good steps to building the fabric of the community up." While Traer Creek is the most obvious issue, Gennett said the root of the problem for Avon is economic development.
Reinventing the town of Avon is what Fancher calls the town's biggest issue - in addition to Traer Creek, she said. She said the town needs to find a short-term solution with Traer Creek without creating a long-term problem. She also said the town should help businesses grow and should create an "overall design standard" as the town works toward creating a user-friendly, walkable community.
The main job of the council "is to budgetarily run the town of Avon," Reynolds said. He said the town must stay within its limits, adding that the litigation with Traer Creek has been a "big drain." Traer Creek is a 40 -to- 80-year commitment for the town and Reynolds said the council has to protect the people of the town. He added that more special events in the community should be a priority in order to bring in more revenue.
3. What other things, if you could look toward the end of your term, would you like to see accomplished?
Wolf envisions an Avon with a better sense of community. He wants to get children and families more involved in the town through events that bring people together, such as contests for things like tree decorations around the holidays.
"We want Avon to be a destination place - we don't want it to be a doormat," Wolf said. "It can be a world-class gateway, it just needs some creativity and some more heart in the heart."
Gennett wants the town to focus on some realistic goals it could accomplish in time for the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships. When the world is watching, he said Avon needs to put on its best show as the base of Beaver Creek. He thinks Avon could be a destination special enough to compete with Vail, Minturn or Edwards. By hitting benchmarks and goals set by the town leadership, Gennett said Avon can become a more "cohesive, connected place."
"If I'm going to dream, I'm going to dream big," Reynolds said, adding that he wants to see Traer Creek developed and wants that area to truly become a part of the Avon community. He also would love to see light rail through the valley during his time, but recognizes that's a big dream. Making Avon more pedestrian-friendly is also a goal, but "build out at Village at Avon is pretty darn important right now."
Fancher doesn't want "fiscal fear to stop us from moving forward." She said the 2015 Championships will be here soon and the town should take that opportunity to showcase itself. Fancher wants to diversify the town by bringing in more businesses that will help drive sales tax revenues. "Let's grow and thrive," she said.
In addition to the Village at Avon, Minervini said the town's budget is critical right now. He wants town revenues to grow and said he'd be a "personal ambassador" in trying to bring more businesses and organizations to Avon. He wants to build up the pedestrian mall and also hopes more special events in town could help it grow.
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.