AVON — Sales tax is the lifeblood of all Colorado towns. But how to recruit new sources of that fiscal fluid is often a topic for debate. In Avon, town officials in the last couple of years have declared that the town is “open for business.” But what does that mean?
At a recent strategy session, town council members made running the town “like a business” one of the group’s top goals. Mayor Rich Carroll said that means town officials will look to “find effective solutions” as it manages its own operations. That means the town will look for ways to better serve its clients — primarily residents and businesses.
The question to answer, Carroll said, is how the town can work with businesses to the benefit of everyone.
For instance, Wyndham Worldwide recently earned town approval to build timeshare condominiums next door to The Seasons building. The project moved fairly quickly through staff reviews and the town’s planning commission before ultimate approval by the town council. The schedule was designed to allow Wyndham to have the project built and open by the end of 2014, in time for the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships.
“The town definitely wanted that project in its current form,” Carroll said. “Our staff and the applicant both worked very hard, and I think it will be a project the town could be proud of and the developer could make a profit on.”
If the developer makes a profit, tax revenues flow to the town, which keeps cops, snowplows and buses on the streets.
Council member Chris Evans said that’s part of the town government’s focus on “being as good a steward as we can with taxpayers’ money.”
Using public money more effectively includes tactics such as working with other governments, Evans said. For instance, if the town needs GIS mapping, it should pay for services from Eagle County’s already-established mapping department instead of creating one of its own.
And when a developer comes to the town with a proposal, Evans said the town owes its taxpayers an efficient approval process.
But both Carroll and Evans said the town needs to maintain its standards.
“We want to have good-quality projects that will work for everybody,” Carroll said.
Mike Brumbaugh has run Venture Sports in Avon for nearly 25 years and has seen town councils run through a number of strategies. Overall, Brumbaugh said he’s rarely had problems dealing with the town’s government. Still, he said he’s happy to hear the “open for business” claim.
For Brumbaugh, helping local businesses in town means drawing more events — something that’s also in this council’s latest strategic plan. Events such as the Tough Mudder adventure races in Beaver Creek or the XTERRA race, scheduled for July, have the best potential to help businesses throughout town.
Recognizing the importance of the event, town officials earlier this year decided to delay replacing the liner in Nottingham Lake, where the XTERRA swimming events take place. The event might have moved without a swimmable lake, so town officials decided to fill the lake this spring, then drain it after the race, a move Brumbaugh applauded.
While Tough Mudder is in Beaver Creek, Brumbaugh noted that people have to come through town to get to the resort, and that many of the thousands of people who participate in the race stay in Avon’s lodges. That’s why he said a good relationship with the resort is crucial. That hasn’t always happened, he said.
“Sometimes it’s been Avon versus Beaver Creek,” Brumbaugh said, adding that the town and resort seem to be working well together now.
Brumbaugh also lauded the town government for its participation in the Eagle Air Alliance, which put together a summer flight from Houston this year. Those people will come to the valley, and many will end up in stores and restaurants in Avon.
Evans said he and other council members want to hear what the town can do better, from permits for outdoor events to bigger items like development approvals.
“We can’t waive sales taxes, but come to council meetings and let us know how we can be better,” Evans said.
All Brumbaugh wants is a chance to earn some business.
“You bring people here — then it’s up to me,” he said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2939 or at email@example.com.