Avon approves purchase of Skier Building for town hall
AVON — The structure commonly known as the Skier Building may soon have a new nickname: Avon Town Hall.
An ordinance approving the purchase of the building for the purposes of relocating town hall there passed the council on second reading Tuesday in a 6-1 vote. The 16,000-square-foot building, which overlooks the town’s new pedestrian mall from its West Beaver Creek Boulevard location, will cost the town $3.2 million.
It will be paid for using certificate of participation bonds, which do not require voter approval and will be annually renewed and paid down with money from the town’s Real Estate Transfer Tax fund. That fund is expected to generate $3.8 million next year and $3.3 million in 2015, said finance director Scott Wright, and no other payments are currently coming out of the fund.
“We’re trying to do this without raising taxes, which has always been a push from the citizens,” said council member Buz Reynolds on Tuesday. “This is a financial win.”
Others at the meeting didn’t share Reynolds’ opinion.
The lone dissenting vote came from council member Matt Gennett, who said the location of the building isn’t consistent with the town’s 2007 master plan — a document referenced by other council members as evidence that Tuesday’s decision was not made in haste. The public first learned of the ongoing Skier Building discussion when a press release was issued by the town Sept. 19.
“I do think town hall needs to move eventually,” Gennett said. “But I don’t think it needs to be tomorrow, and I don’t think it needs to be on the pedestrian mall.”
‘WHERE IS DOWNTOWN AVON?’
The $1.9 million pedestrian mall is a project that has been underway for months in Avon, and it is currently approaching completion. It’s a major step toward creating a “downtown Avon,” something that has been an enigma to visitors and residents alike over the years.
“A couple of years ago I was pulling into the rec center, and this couple was walking along the sidewalk,” Mayor Rich Carroll said. “They looked kind of lost, so I rolled down my window and said ‘Can I help you find something?’ and they looked at me with a quizzical look on their faces and said ‘Where is downtown Avon?’ There’s no answer to that question because there is no downtown Avon. … What we’re doing today with the pedestrian mall and town hall … is recognizing the 2007 and 2008 plans from the town.”
Gennett said the 2007 plan called for town hall to be moved to the west side of the Avon Recreation Center, closer to the park and not on the pedestrian mall.
“I think the reason for that is because when you’re investing that much money in your pedestrian mall, and you’re pumping in all that capital improvement, you’re doing that to stimulate business interests and to get businesses to relocate to that pedestrian mall, and one thing you don’t want to do is take up a big space that would be ideal for retail and restaurant use once that mall is up and running and going gangbusters.”
About a dozen members of the public were present for Tuesday’s Skier Building discussion. Five of those members of the public are currently running for town council. Four people spoke out against the decision, two of whom are current candidates. Two people issued statements in favor.
Council candidate John Minervini asked about the legal requirements for filing a citizen’s petition for referendum on the issue.
Such a referendum would require petition signatures from 10 percent of the number of voters who voted at the last general election, town attorney Eric Heil told Minervini.
“Unfortunately, it’s election season and some people are trying to make an election issue out of this,” Carroll said.