Vail Valley Voices: Too big, complicated to approve, Avon
September 9, 2012
I have sat in on numerous Avon Town Council meetings and Planning and Zoning Commission meetings recently, and listened carefully to all the parties –Traer Creek, BNP Paribas, town staff, council members, planning commissions and members of the public.
I have heard them voice their opinions and positions on the Village at Avon, the Traer Creek Metro District Development, the Settlement Term Sheet and the potential impact on the quality of life in Avon.
As a resident of Avon who looks forward to responsible development in our area, my observations and conclusions from these meetings are as follows:
1) Traer Creek proposed a final planned unit development application that does not have the degree of definition and clarity — 3D models, traffic studies, contiguous school site, buffering, recreational facilities definitions, open space definitions, letters of intent from potential clients, infrastructure requirements, etc, that other stakeholders in this process — Town Council, Planning and Zoning Commission, town staff, members of the public, etc., require to support approving this application.
While we could trust the developer to pursue good development, there currently is no community protection from the developer to pursue bad development — poor building aesthetics, vague density and residential-commercial mixes, unknown infrastructure requirements, inadequate buffering, etc., due to the lack of definition and clarity in the development plan.
The long-term costs — tangible and intangible — to approve the application as submitted with its lack of definition and clarity are potentially much more expensive to the citizens of Avon than the cost of litigation and Traer Creek Metro District’s bond interest rate changes that could result in denying this application.
2) The development application is too large — 1,800 acres, numerous planning areas, uses and mixes, etc. — for the Town Council, Planning and Zoning Commission, town staff and public to fully understand the impact it will have on Avon in the time frame laid out in the Settlement Term Sheet and by BNP.
The Avon Town attorney even stated in a letter to the Planning and Zoning Commission that review of the documents in the time frame laid out was “impossible.”
The citizens of Avon and surrounding communities will live with this development decision for the next 50-plus years — long after all the attorneys are gone.
3) Based on the above, the only responsible decision the Avon Town Council can take is to vote for denial of the final application as it is currently proposed. Any other decision would be a leap of faith that this development, as presented, will be in the best interest of the citizens. The Avon Planning and Zoning Commission has concurred and voted to recommend denial of the application.
4) However, outright denial will not benefit Traer Creek, the town or the public. This will end up in the courts, it will incur additional legal costs to the developer and to the town, and will result in interest rate changes to the bonds. There will be no development until the litigation is resolved.
In order to balance the developer’s interests with the town and public’s requirement for more definition and clarity, the developer should address the plan in smaller and more defined parcels.
For example, the hotel being discussed in Planning Area J (next to the ambulance station at the Post Boulevard exit from I-70) could be the first development application. The developer should pursue a letter of intent from a specific hotel client and then submit a development application that is complete with proposed building designs, 3-D models, buffering, infrastructure, etc.
Upon completion of this plan, the developer can then pursue his next best economic opportunity in a similar manner.
In conclusion, the 1,800 acre site will require many years to fully develop anyway — regardless of the current application decision. This incremental planning area approach will allow the developer and the town of Avon to build responsible development together and adjust together as new opportunities arise in the years to come.
I urge all interested citizens to come to the Avon Town Council meetings starting Sept. 11 and scheduled to conclude on Sept. 25-26 at the Avon Town Hall, 1 Lake St. in Avon at 5:30 p.m. Just say no to the current Traer Creek’s currently pending final application.
Joe Walker is an Avon resident.