Another drought dilemma – dust |

Another drought dilemma – dust

Matt Zalaznick
Vail Daily/Melinda KruseHeavy equipment swarms the site of the future Village at Avon shopping center and housing development underway in east Avon. Nearby residents are complaining about the clouds resulting from the construction activities.

When high winds kick up and there’s no rain to dampen the ground, the ground itself simply takes to the air in huge clouds of dust.

Despite some recent afternoon rain showers, complaints about dust have been billowing, as well, in neighborhoods bordering the bustling Village at Avon construction site in east Avon.

“You talk about the odor stuff, but there needs to be a provision for dust control,” says nearby resident Kathleen Walsh, referring to Avon’s long-running but recently cooled-off battle with the local wastewater plant over foul odors wafting over nearby apartment complexes. “You drive down Eaglebend Drive and there are dust bowls everywhere.”

Traer Creek, the developer of the Village at Avon, realizes dust is a problem, says Shane Bohart, director of development, and the company has several weapons in its dust-control arsenal, including electronic monitoring devices that sound alarms when levels get too high.

“We’re taking all the necessary precautionary steps,” Bohart says. “When we get significant winds, we shut down the project and wait for the winds to subside. But this being such a hot, dry summer it’s very difficult to mitigate all the dust issues.”

Four to five water trucks also make the rounds on the construction site, dampening the ground to prevent dust from kicking up, Bohart says, and drivers have also been directed not to drive on dirt when it’s unnecessary.

Meanwhile, firefighters, who have been on high alert for wildfires all summer, have chased dozens of dust clouds that have been mistaken for smoke by antsy residents. Most of those dust clouds have been kicked up by heavy equipment at several construction sites in the valley.

These parched conditions are not only keeping firefighters busier than usual, they’re making it hard for construction workers to be the best of neighbors.

The town of Avon is also doing everything it can to stifle the dust at the Village at Avon construction site, where 350,000 square feet of shops are quickly being built, says Town Manager Bill Efting.

But this arid summer, Mother Nature is a more than formidable foe, Efting said.

“We understand the dust is an inconvenience for people,” Efting says. “But when the wind blows 30 to 40 mph, unless you have mud, you’re going to get dust.”

The town currently has no anti-dust laws, Efting says.

“It’s a strange summer and we’re trying to track the dust,” Efting says. “If we could get some rain that would help but there are still days where we’re getting strong gusts.”

Construction can’t start on the Village at Avon shops –which consists of The Home Depot, a Wal-Mart, parking lots and connecting roads –until 7 a.m. each day. That means the water trucks can’t start spraying until 7 a.m., when other equipment may have already starting kicking up some dust.

“It’s fine until you get a gust of wind and there’s a huge dust storm for four or five minutes,” says Town Councilman Pete Buckley.

Aside from the shops, the developer is also building a new bridge on Nottingham Ranch Road, a new Interstate 70 interchange and a four-lane boulevard that sinks under the railroad tracks and connects I-70 and U.S. Highway 6.

The developer has also agreed to build a cul-de-sac at the interchange of Eaglebend Drive and Nottingham Road to keep traffic out of the Eaglebend neighborhood.

The Village at Avon, which will later consist of 2,400 affordable and luxury homes on the north side of I-70, is believed to be the largest such development on the Western Slope.

Matt Zalaznick covers public safety, Eagle County Courts and Avon/ Beaver Creek. He can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at

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