Avon bus battle frustrates driver
AVON, Colorado – Months after bus stops at Buffalo Ridge and Wal-Mart were canceled in Avon, passengers are still asking bus driver Jim Reiter when the routes are coming back.Reiter still sees Buffalo Ridge residents walking home with bags of groceries at night. He wishes he could pick them up and take them home. He wonders how they’ll handle those long walks when a snowy winter really kicks in.Reiter doesn’t know when bus service will come back, but he doesn’t think it’ll be back soon, he tells his passengers. He says that big egos and stubbornness are preventing Avon residents from getting the bus service they need.”This is a children’s political game, a game of tug of war,” he said.Reiter is referring to the long dispute between the town and developer Traer Creek over who should be paying for bus service to the Village at Avon, which includes Wal-Mart, Home Depot and the Buffalo Ridge affordable housing complex.The debate will come up again at Tuesday’s town council meeting. There will be a public hearing over the council’s decision to force Traer Creek to meet a list of conditions, including providing bus service to The Village at Avon, if it wants to change its building plans in a development north of Eaglebend Road.Until it’s resolved, there won’t be an Avon bus going to Wal-Mart or Buffalo Ridge. Reiter says the details don’t matter to him now. He said he’s tired of the finger pointing and arguing. He knows that there used to be bus service, now there isn’t, people need it, and there needs to be a compromise to bring it back.”These people are suffering, and they are being cheated,” Reiter said. “I’m very defensive of my passengers and protective of them – you know what they need,” Reiter said.Bus-service bluff? More than a year ago, the town asked the Traer Creek Metro District, which is responsible for funding services such as snowplowing and police and fire protection in the Village at Avon, to fund bus routes to Wal-Mart and Buffalo Ridge, believing people needed it. The metro district has said it would pay for bus service in the future, but when it sees the need – when more people move into the area and when more businesses are paying taxes. Legally, it’s up to the district to request bus service.The Town Council decided to start service anyway and pay the bill itself, hoping to prove how much the stops are needed.Wal-Mart quickly became the most popular stop in Avon, with more than 56,500 people boarding or unloading there in the past year. There’s only a limited pool of riders at Buffalo Ridge, but a large number of residents use the bus and depend on it to get to work.The town though stopped the bus routes at the end of April, saying the it couldn’t afford to keep the bus going, especially since it doesn’t receive sales tax from the Village at Avon.The town still insists that Traer Creek, while not legally obligated to pay for the bus service, should feel a moral obligation to pay. Traer Creek still insists that it can’t afford bus service yet and that it will when it’s bringing in more tax money.Compromise coming?At the last Town Council meeting, there was talk of compromise and communication. Traer Creek is hoping to move a planned center of shops and restaurants out of the back-yard view of about 20 homes on Eagle Bend Drive. Traer Creek says it found a way to rearrange its plans and move most of the commercial area toward the center of its development, and instead put mostly housing on the side facing the Eagle Bend homes.The council approved changes to Traer Creek’s building plans with several conditions, one condition being that they would start paying for bus service to Buffalo Ridge and Wal-Mart.Traer Creek has said it would withdraw its proposal if forced to provide bus service, but both Traer Creek and the town said they would try to iron out differences before Tuesday’s meeting, where the council would vote a second time on the proposal after a second public hearing.Reiter, however, doubts he’ll hear any good news after this meeting. He said he was disappointed to see the town rekindle the debate over bus service by giving the developer an “ultimatum.””You can’t give someone an ultimatum like that,” Reiter said. “The town should know that Traer Creek is stubborn, and that no one likes being handed ultimatums.”Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or email@example.com.