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August 2, 2013
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Avon council members deny conflict of interest

AVON — A pair of town council members found themselves on the receiving end of some pointed questions regarding their involvement in a new time-share condo project in town.

Wyndham Vacation Resorts in February received unanimous approval from the Avon Town Council for a project on a small parcel of land between the Seasons at Avon building and Avon Center.

In June, Wyndham hired Evans Chaffee Construction Group to be the “owners’ representative” on the project, after the original owners representatives pulled out of the project in May. Council member Chris Evans is a partner in the company. Fellow council member Todd Goulding is a company executive.

Wearing their private-sector hats, Goulding and Evans hosted a meeting at town hall on Wednesday to answer questions about the project. What they heard were a lot of questions about their involvement in the project.

Attendees question project

While complimenting the project itself, former council member Tamra Nottingham Underwood asked how the project — which is under construction now — moved so quickly through the town’s approval process. She also asked why town officials seemed to disregard various plans for the town’s long-simmering ideas for main street and why the Wyndham project didn’t pay into a fund that helped finance the gondola to Beaver Creek at the Westin Riverfront Resort across the street.

Evans and Goulding both said the topic of the gondola didn’t come up in any of the town council’s deliberations on the project. After the meeting, Evans said a town staff member had just informed him that the Wyndham property isn’t in the metropolitan district formed around the Westin that’s paying for the gondola and other improvements.

“We’d have no way of making them join that district,” Evans said.

Underwood and Kristi Ferarro, another former council member, asked why there is just one retail space in the Wyndham project, when the town’s main street plan calls for more retail in the area.

Goulding said the council discussed whether or not to include more retail space in the project and that council members determined there was a greater need for “active beds” in the area, since there are already several vacant retail spaces there.

Some residents left with questions

Resident Laurie Adler asked several questions similar to those asked by the former council members.

After the meeting, she and her husband, Joe Walker, said they had even more questions than they had at the start of the meeting

“I still don’t really understand the working relationship between the project and the council,” Walker said. And, Adler added, while Evans and Goulding may be complying with the letter of the law, the appearance of impropriety is there.

In an interview after the meeting, Evans and Goulding both strongly denied there is anything improper about their roles on the council or Evans Chaffee’s current work on the Wyndham project.

‘Appearances worse than reality’

“We’re acting within our (town) code of ethics,” Goulding said, acknowledging that the residents’ questions are fair.

“Appearances are sometimes worse than reality,” Evans said. “But we’ve done nothing wrong ... we were approached by Wyndham, we were referred by someone because we’re eminently qualified to do this. We want to make this a successful project for Wyndham and the town.”


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The VailDaily Updated Aug 2, 2013 04:18PM Published Aug 2, 2013 02:06PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.