Avon candidates ponder economy, gondolas, and ethics
With 12 candidates vying for four Town Council seats in Avon on Nov. 5, it’ll be tough for any voter in Avon to sort out who’s who and who stands for what. The Vail Trail asked each candidate the same six questions regarding issues currently pertinent to the town.1. Do you support a gondola in Avon? If so, should Avon tax dollars be used to help finance it?2. Did the previous council properly negotiate the Village at Avon deal? If not, how would you have done it differently?3. Should married couples be able to serve on the same council?4. Does Avon need a pedestrian village core? If so, where should it be located?5. What do you feel is the best method for solving Avon’s budget woes?6. What can Avon do to fill the office/business/restaurant space that is currently empty?Candidates were asked to keep their responses under 50 words each. In cases where a candidate exceeded his or her limit, the Vail Trail abbreviated the comments. The candidates and their responses are listed in alphabetical order, and each number corresponds to one of the questions above.Robert Angel1. Yes, but the town should only pay a percentage of the expected sales tax revenue. The lion’s share should be paid by VA, the businesses of Beaver Creek & the residents of Beaver Creek.2. This is a moot point – the deal is done. There is no reason to waste time arguing whether or not the Council’s contract with the Village at Avon was good or bad. The new Town Council needs to move forward and look over the original plan and make the Village at Avon a success.3. No, I believe it makes it very hard to be objective.4. Yes, there is a plan already in place the town just needs the funds to put this plan into action.5 & 6. I would invite corporations out to visit the town to show them the values of moving their businesses to Avon. The best way to solve the budget problem would be increasing sale tax revenues by having new businesses open their doors in Avon. The new companies could fill the empty commercial space available, which would increase the sales tax. This would solve the revenue short fall the town is experiencing.Bobby Bank:1. Yes, I do support a gondola, but no, I don’t believe that the government should subsidize private business.2. No. (1) They should not have allowed a separate design and review board. (2) They should have insisted on specific trigger mechanisms for all of the "promised" amenities, such as the ice arena. (3) They should not have forgiven all of the taxes in lieu of not paying the bonds, only a portion and/or only specific ones (ie, property not sales or transfer or some combination there of). (4) They should have required a limitation on work hours excluding at least Sundays, and they should have put a strict fine and/or gate system in place to make sure the noise of the development didn’t go into the middle of the night as it has all summer. (5) They should have insisted the box stores be located near the existing town center to draw more shoppers to that area instead of away from it. (6) They should have required the developer to work in a neighborly fashion, with some town oversight if necessary, to minimize the impact of the development on the surrounding neighborhood before construction, and finally, (7) they should have said enough is enough and never have granted them even more commercial development rights by letting them change the McGrady acres annexation area to commercial zoning.3. No (not because of any past wrong doing, just in principle).4 Yes, but it should not try and reinvent the "stand alone developments" already approved and built on the west side of the round a bouts, rather it should try and "start from scratch" at no taxpayer cost on the chapel square side. In direct relation to this question the town needs to require that its own public works department be required to go through the towns planning and zoning board to insure it is following the towns own development plan.5. Stop spending more than we have. There seems to be a five-year-old’s mentality about pleasing everyone immediately. We just need to wait for capital improvement money to come in, as part of a sound fiscal plan and then complete each project, one at a time as that happens. We need to allocate certain percentages to police, transit, recreation, maintenance, etc. and then let each department live with it. As the economy improves their total budget will too, same for contraction. It should not be so determined on the whim of each new town council.6. All we can really do is provide a safe and beautiful place to come to. We can also try and encourage a more (than currently) involved merchants association. I don’t believe it is the job of the government to fill the developers empty spaces. If we start to subsidize businesses to open they’ll only leave when the true cost of doing business hits them. Rather, we can nudge, hint, prod…the landlords that it is in their best interests to keep rents reasonable and that by getting successful businesses that last they will collect more rent in the end.Tab Bonidy1. Yes, I think the gondola is a good idea. I believe Avon tax dollars can help finance it if there is an identified payback and preferably, a future money-maker for the Town. It should have a successful pro forma.2. In some respects, I believe they have. In others, I believe there could have been some better choices, but it is easy, in retrospect, to say maybe it was not the best deal. There are many factors which go into every decision, and not being a part of these, I believe it is not fair to be overcritical. Typically, when a large business or company comes to an area, incentives are offered. In this case, the infrastructure of this new part of the Town is being fronted by the Developer.3. Some time ago, when I first realized this condition existed, I was quite surprised it was permitted. That was my gut reaction. I believe there could be a better representation of this diverse community than two councilpersons from the same household.4. Yes, I believe it does. Our town is the gateway to Beaver Creek. With the advent of the gondola and consideration given to the current master plan, it makes sense to align an east-west pedestrian corridor Benchmark Road. The Park could be the anchor on the west via the path north of the Seasons building, then aligning with Benchmark Road to the east. Consideration could be given to depressing Avon Road to its level under the tracks and have a pedestrian way cross above Avon Road to link the Park all the way to Chapel Square. There are many logistics to this concept including road grades, Fire Department access, existing building/business access, drainage, associated costs, etc. which require further study.5. It would take more than a cursory overview to make this determination. Balancing a budget is of the foremost importance. I also believe a reserve should be considered as part of the normal budgeting procedure. For future consideration, I believe the town needs more organized events in congruence with other events in the County and an increase in proactively attracting businesses. Both of these have the ability to increasing the income side of the budget.6. The first step is a market analysis identifying the needs of the community. Approaching the resulting businesses with strong economic projections should help entice them. There are many other techniques and incentives which can be implemented.Debbie Buckley:1. I would purchase a lift ticket to ride the proposed gondola; however it would be a misuse of Avon’s tax dollars to provide $6 million to help subsidize a public company like Vail Resorts. I believe Avon should help develop the Gondola base area working as a traditional municipality, which means assisting with parking, roads and transportation.2. I am not going to second guess the previous council. I attended the public hearings as a citizen when this was presented in 1998. The Village will be a tax benefit for Avon in the long run. A different negotiation could have meant another Edwards to the East, and that would be worse.3. I believe each incumbent should be judged by their voting record. http://debbiebuckley.com has my record online. Prejudice based on race, religion, gender, creed or marital status is not part of our Constitution and is not part of how I evaluate any elected official.4. Yes. I like the proposed spot for the Avon Town Center. The real issue is how to pay for it. Remember the employees of the Town of Avon, are not getting a pay raise this year because Avon doesn’t have the money. It was a real ‘stretch’ in the Avon budget meeting this year, just to keep the Town bus ‘free’.5. Increase sales tax revenue, by leveraging all the visitors to the Village (Wal-Mart, Home Depot) next year. Come shop in Avon, then have lunch here to improve your shopping experience here in Avon.6. Lowering the rent will fill the space. Basic market forces will make Avon office space more attractive, not to mention the additional shopper traffic when Home Depot and Wal-Mart come online next summer.Rene Martinez1. The gondola is a good project and we must do all we can to make it possible but we should do what we can afford. I strongly believe if the gondola is built that the people should benefit. How? By getting discounted ski tickets and obtaining a certain percentage of the profits. That money should be put into different accounts; one for Recreational Activities and the second one left for special funds like affordable housing or emergency needs.2. There is a leadership void in our Council that must be filled. This deal wasn’t very well thought out. It reflects the lack of poor leadership and creativeness on the Council. They have been making quick decisions, which are not always good. These decisions jeopardize the future of Avon. The town is passing through a crucial economic slowdown and by giving away Tax Revenues for so many years isn’t going to bring a prosperous economy and well being to the community. On the contrary, it’s going to affect other businesses that are going to pay taxes especially small business owners. The whole community was not thought of when this decision was made.3. The Council needs more diversity and leadership. I believe that everyone should be represented. Also, our decisions should take more citizens input. We should work under a four-year plan and set our direction. I know that everyone that is willing to do the job should be able to run for the Avon Town Council because that is the principal of democracy. However, it’s up to the people to decide who is on the Town Council. I think the more diversity on the Council, the better the Council will be. We need voices on the Council for the whole community.4. We need to develop a main street identity that will help our economic development and orientate our traffic. For example we could use the old railroad system, and build more pathways for the people.5. I am studying the budget now to see how money is spent and how we could decrease expenses first. We need to work in conjunction with other municipalities and with our government officials to get things done and share responsibilities to get our job done. It will take leadership to make the tough decisions we need to make to be very fiscally responsible. The Council, with input from the people, must decide our priorities and how to spend our money.6. The Council must show leadership by adjusting to the way things are by working with small business owners and entrepreneurs. Avon is the heart of the valley and should be the main provider of goods and services in the Eagle Valley. Avon must focus on its own identity and must carve out its own niche in the valley. Avon is a real town for real people.Mike McClinton1. Nobody is questioning whether a gondola connecting Avon to Beaver Creek Mountain is a good idea. It is a great idea, no question. But who is going to pay for it? Those who benefit should pay for it, and I haven’t seen how Avon will benefit financially to give us that return on investment. If I were to see a direct financial benefit for the citizens of Avon, then I would consider it.2. Past councils dealt with a much different economic and social climate. Taking that into consideration, I think past councils did a good job. What is important is the opportunity for the next Town Council to be successful with managing development in Avon. We have an opportunity to work with the developer of the Village. We can build relationships with Magnus Lindholm and Bill Post to ensure the Town has influence in the ongoing development. The reception of our input will decide the future success and identity of our community.3. Whether or not married couples should serve on the same council is a question presently before the Avon voters. Similar to the last election, our citizens will have the opportunity to decide on Nov. 5 whether that is an issue relevant to them.4. Avon has the opportunity to guide positive development with its vision of a Town Center Plan. I believe creating a “sense of place” and “community” is extremely important for our town and I believe this plan addresses that issue. However, it is imperative that east and west Avon be linked together.5. For economic success, Avon needs to capitalize on its relationship with Beaver Creek. To do that, the Town needs to work in conjunction with its neighbors in Eagle County and develop an economic development master plan for the town of Avon.6. The Town has a great opportunity to focus on a solid, long-range economic development plan that will recruit and retain the ‘right’ type of businesses into our community. We can do this by working in conjunction with our neighboring communities and thinking regionally.Mac McDevitt:1. Yes, I support a gondola, but not one funded by the taxpayers, unless the terms of the annexation agreement for the Confluence site are appropriately modified.2. I don’t know if it was done "properly" but I would hope it was. However, if you mean "adequately", in hindsight, I think we could have gotten a better deal. It was a deal that got pushed through the prior council just before the election four years ago. I think that some issues were overlooked in the rush to get the deal done.3. They are legally allowed to, but it rarely happens because of the good judgment of the couple or ultimately the voters if they are sufficiently informed.4. I think that it would be very beneficial to have a pedestrian core. Itshould be located where the current "Main Street" plan shows it-betweenNottingham lake and the Slifer Building on the west side of Avon and connect to East Avon if possible via a pedestrian bridge across Avon Road.5. On the expense side, there is not much more that can be done before we start impacting services. On the revenue side, more people need to spend more money in Avon to increase the sales and accommodation taxes. The town and business community need to both act proactively and in concert to make that happen.6. We could provide support to the business community that would make it more attractive for an office/business/restaurant to locate here.Steve Miller1. I’ve reviewed a detailed proposal from Vail Resorts that went to theTown of Avon staff. The proposal never got to the Council because ofzoning issues on the Confluence property. To judge its validity without proper review of the facts is unfair.2. Those of us who have lived here for any length of time will recall thatthis project took all of ten (10) years to evolve. While there is a perception that the Council ‘gave away the farm’, there are some significant trade-offs that we will all benefit from.3. It is not for me to judge the will of the voting public.4. Speculation now centers around the area between the Avon Center and the Seasons buildings. I believe we need to look closer at connecting the’big-box’ stores with the east end of Avon. I would like to see a streetscape that promotes an easy flow that would cascade back into the core areas.5. The budget was accomplished by the hard work of management, staff and Town employees. They were able to realize areas that they could trim, while not affecting the services provided to the citizens and visitors of Avon. I would not have voted for cutting employee raises, or Police services.6. Once the new Council is seated they need to work on finding the right method of bringing a calculated economic development process to Avon. There should be no delay in recognizing this important process. All of the Town’s business professionals should be involved in organizing this movement to the future.Ron Neville1. The gondola needs to be built. I, like everyone else, would love tosee it built without Avon helping financially. However, the gondola isimportant enough to the Town of Avon that if the only way for it to bebuilt is with support from Avon, then we need to support it.2. The previous council did the best they could at the time. Worst casescenario is that the Village of Avon would not have been annexed intothe Town of Avon and we would have lost out on all the future revenuederived from the development.3. I personally feel it is not appropriate for a married couple to serveon a council of this size. This is a decision that needs to be made bythe voters during the election. There should not be any additionalrestrictions against who can be placed on the ballot.4. We should explore the option of developing distinct commercialidentities with a shuttle system connecting them. We will soon have thebig box area located in the Village at Avon. We should develop theChapel Square/City Market area into a destination with mid-sizecommercial entities. And finally, the Main Street/confluence site as apedestrian mall.5. Controlling expenses is the number one issue that needs to beaddressed. Beyond the expenses, the town needs to continually look tonew and creative ways to increase revenue sources. One possibilitywould be to advertise on the interior and exteriors of the townshuttles.6. We should work closely with the tourism industry to spark additionalactivities to bring more guests to the area. The Town Council shouldmake a collective effort to work with the Avon Business Association tokeep the lines of communication open.Brian Sipes:1. I support the idea of a gondola that accesses the ski area beginning in the Town of Avon if the plan for the base area of the gondola is designed to enhance and energize the town core and not just the Avon Landing site. We need to understand what Vail Resorts is proposing and analyze the impacts and benefits to Avon before we make a decision. It is absolutely critical that the final plan be a part of the whole town and that connections are made to encourage visitors to venture in to the town core to visit other shops and restaurants. If the plan is executed correctly the gondola could become an economic engine for the town; if not it would be just one more isolated area of lodging and retail further adding to the fragmented nature of our town.There are some who say they are in favor of the gondola but want Vail Resorts to pay 100% of the cost. I believe this is a very naive viewpoint because if Vail Resorts pays all of the costs we will have very little say in the development plan. Simply put, we have a better chance of getting what we want if we are a financial player. In the past the town has made many deals where developers were asked to pay all of the costs of their development and in exchange Avon gave up control and review authority. I think those deals were as good as they could have been, but had we participated financially the citizens of Avon would now have more say in what is happening in their backyard.It is important to understand that it is not likely the gondola would be funded out of the general fund of collected taxes. All major large projects the town has undertaken (such as the roundabouts and even the infrastructure for Wildridge) have been funded with bonds. Any new bonds would have to be approved by the voters.2. First, I think some clarification is in order. Only two of the current council members were present during the negotiation of the Village at Avon annexation agreement. This negotiation occurred during Jack Faucet’s time as Mayor of Avon almost 4 years ago. At that time many public meetings were held before the council voted to accept the agreement.It is also very important to understand that, at the time, the developer had approached Eagle County for approval of the project. Avon was faced with working out a deal with the developer or dealing with an Edwards sized development directly next door competing for our tax dollars. Much of the traffic and other impacts would also have been felt within the Town. At the time the county commissioners were not clear on how tough they would be in forcing the development to be part of Avon. Avon was able to negotiate the new interchange and a portion of the affordable housing be built concurrently with any initial development.Given all of the factors, I think the council at that time did the best job they could. I attended all of the public meetings back then, even speaking at a few. It was that process that caused me to consider applying for the next opening on the Planning & Zoning Commission. I was successful and held that position until this past June when I was appointed to fill the Town Council seat vacated by Rick Cuny.In the future, I would like to see the Town take a more proactive, team oriented approach with developers. We should participate financially in the development of our town so we maintain the ability to direct the development toward what is best for the Town. I also feel we should participate in regional discussions and planning with other towns and the county to prevent the “if we don’t build it, they will” competitive atmosphere. We are all in this together weather we like it or not. I am a member of the One Valley Leadership Coalition, a grass roots organization dedicated to the goal of regional planning and cooperation for the success of the whole valley. As an architect and a planner, I feel I bring the understanding of development realities and the vision of what the positive outcome could be to help the Town reach balanced decisions benefiting the citizens of Avon.3. I think that it is very unfortunate that this has even become an issue. Avon has many, many important issues to deal with and this is not one of them. I do not believe that married couples should be prevented from serving. This is question for the voters to decide who they want to represent them. In the past often times there were not even enough interested people to fill a ballot. That being said, with 12 candidates on this years ballot I do not think it is in the voter’s best interest to elect two people from the same household when there is this much interest in the position.4. Avon needs a plan to connect and create synergy and energy between its scattered and various retail and restaurant areas. A while back, the town commissioned and then approved a plan to create a "main street" along the right of way the town owns between the Seasons and the Sheraton. This would not be a pedestrian only mall, but a street with parallel parking, wide sidewalks and interesting shops and entertainment in a very pedestrian friendly atmosphere. Unfortunately the plan was neither funded nor extended to study the opportunities in East Avon. I think this is the right idea, but I believe that we should expand the study to include East Avon and even a portion of the Village at Avon.In my opinion, the reason Edwards has succeeded as a retail shopping area is that they created their retail in two easily accessible, pleasant pedestrian areas with a great mix of types of retail, banking, restaurants and entertainment. We can do the same in Avon; in fact we can do better. Edwards will never have the proximity and view of Beaver Creek that we do (or the access to it if the gondola is approved). They also lack the heart that Avon has. That heart is our park and lake with the Library, Town Hall, and Recreation Center all in one location. It is this heart that makes Avon a community first and we should not loose or turn our back on this wonderful amenity. To me the main street plan capitalizes on this heart and begins to create a connection between it and the commercial core. The main street will be somewhat more pedestrian oriented than the commercial core because of this proximity and will help to begin to define distinct experiences within the town. If the gondola is ever approved, the main street will also serve to connect the gondola to the commercial core and the public heart. Over time the main street should be extended across Avon road into East Avon and eventually into and connecting with the Village at Avon. It is critical that we plan for this now so future opportunities are not lost.5. The simple answer is to raise revenue and cut expenditures, but this is not a simple problem. So far we have been able to cut expenditures without drastically effecting the services people receive. This will not be the case if revenues stay at their current levels or decline. Much of the town’s budget comes from sales tax and this has been declining rapidly over the last few years.Long term we need to fix the planning problems I discussed above to better compete with other retail areas within the valley. Short term we need to reach out to the business community and understand better the obstacles they face and to building owners to understand why we have empty retail spaces.I also think it is critical that Avon participate in valley wide marketing efforts. We need to understand that our visitors to not see us as a collection of different towns but as one vacation destination with many different opportunities. I would like to see Avon work with the Chamber to develop regional identities marketed under one umbrella. To do this we must reach out to the community and understand what their vision is for the town. Do we want to become an area of mostly national franchise retailers or local entrepreneurs? Once we understand what the people of Avon want, we need to develop a vision of what we want to become and clearly state that vision back to the people of Avon. Otherwise we will continue to make decisions based on the here and now without understanding the cumulative effects of those decisions and one day we will wake up and wonder what happened.6. We need to understand why this is happening. My feeling is that it is partially because of the fragmented nature of our retail, but there may be other reasons. Are the building owners being unreasonable with rent and tenant services? To the retailers have access to the information they need to make business planning and marketing decisions?I think there are several things the town can do in cooperation with the Chamber and the Avon merchants association. First, I think we should encourage the creation of a business incubator that would serve as a place to share non-proprietary information between businesses. Things like how advertising works, marketing studies, sharing of printing needs, etc. Working together, I think business could cut costs and increase exposure.Second, I think the town could create weekly events to bring people to town in the summer and shoulder seasons. This would be in addition to big events we have and new ones we could plan. The advantage of a weekly event is that it becomes a habit, something to do each week. Just look at what the Minturn market has become. One idea I particularly like is to have movies in the park every Monday night. We could show classic films and have vendors selling popcorn and soda. Area restaurants could offer discounts in honor of the film and this could become “the” date thing to do on Monday nights.Businesses in East Avon could get together for weekly sidewalk sales, block parties or markets. The town could help out with traffic coordination and shuttles to help move people around. The key is to do something often that requires minimal investment but provides maximum experience for those visiting. I think that there are a lot of ideas out there we could tap into if we only listen.Albert “Chico” Thuon1. Yes I support a lift into Avon, but tax dollars should not be used.2. It wasn’t the last council that made the mistakes with making such a sweet deal with the big boxes. It was the council before them that made the mistake. If a developer wants to develop his /her property he/she should pay for it themselves. No question.3. It is in very poor form to have a third of the votes come out ofone bedroom!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!4. Yes, it should start near the municipal building and work it’s way east to the village at Avon.5. To have a sustainable budget to get us through the bad times (now), and when we prosper to save for such bad times and not be stupid by building bike paths to no-where (Nottingham Rd. bike path) and mega bronzes for the roundabouts. Hind sight is twenty- twenty. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense that the council is approving an expense for next year to spend $1000 for council agendas to be published in the Vail Daily. And at the same time police are not allowed to take their patrol cars home when they are on call. Take the money from the paper adds and buy gas for the cop- cars so the cops can solve the new gang related crimes that are happening in our community.6. This is tough issue because rent is high as well as turn-over. Creating community and activities around a town center is a start. Without this people go elsewhere where these things exist i.e. Vail, Edwards. Another solution may be to actively recruit businesses to come to Avon without selling out. We just can’t promise to pay off their bonds, i.e. Home Depot, Super Wal-Mart.Ron Wolfe:1. The Gondola has significant benefits for the Mountain (opens a second major portal taking pressure off of the Centennial Lift and the access road) and to the Confluence Site (it becomes "beach-front" property increasing its value). However there are also significant issues with the current plan. The route of the gondola does not include BC Village and therefore it will not bring guests down to the Town after the slopes close. We do not have a workable plan for people to get across the RR tracks so that they can visit, shop, stay or dine in Town. Finally we must recognize the excellent marketing skills of VR. The Confluence site will undoubtedly contain ski shops, restaurants, bars, etc. through which VR will, and should, capture most of their guests’ spending. On top of all of this is the current deal in which the owners for 15 years keep 75 percent of the sales and accommodation taxes and 50 percent of the real estate transfer taxes. Collectively these issues create an unfavorable deal for Avon. Unless we see a revised deal and plan which is clearly beneficial for Avon, taxpayers should not contribute to the construction of the gondola.
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