Avon candidates stump in final forums | VailDaily.com

Avon candidates stump in final forums

Matt Zalaznick

The dozen candidates running for four empty seats on the Avon Town Council faced merchants on the cusp of a ski season many are hoping will bring the valley out of its economic doldrums. A point of dispute was how much involvement the town government should have in helping local businesses recover from the troubles of terrorism, drought and recession.

“When you’re in a small community, I do think there has to be more than an arm’s length (relationship) for business to be successful,” said Larry Klistrup, who owns Eagle Valley Trading and Loan, adding he has a unique perspective of the valley’s economic woes.

“I have more loans out in this valley than all the banks in the community,” Kilstrup says.

Candidate Ron Neville, a property manager for Vail Resorts, said the government should assist merchants – but not interfere.

“The government should be a catalyst for businesses, it should help bring businesses together and then get out of the way of the smart people who are running the businesses,” Neville said.

Councilman Brian Sipes, an architect running for reelection, said bad planning in the past has trapped Avon between two more vital areas –Vail Village and Riverwalk in Edwards – which offer more options for pedestrians.

“When Edwards came online,” he said, “it really made apparent the mistakes we’ve made in planning.”

A Main Street shopping area on the west side of town that’s connected to the gondola and ski village Vail Resorts wants to build alongside the Eagle River in Avon could invigorate Avon, he said.

Vail Resorts has asked Avon to help pay for the gondola.

“If we have a great place,” Sipes added, “Vail Resorts will bend over backward to connect to it and energize the town.”

Candidate Tab Bonidy, an architect in Avon, says the council could best boost business by forming an economic development agency to seek out businesses to relocate to the town.

“I’m not a gypsy and I don’t know what’s going to happen with the weather this year or next year,” Bonidy said. “But a practical thing we can do as a council, if I’m so lucky as to be elected, is to get the county energized from a marketing standpoint.”

Robin Pieters, who owns Mountain Clothing in Avon, criticized the Town Council for not paying enough attention to individual businesses. She may have a point because some of the candidates – who all live in Avon –had never heard of her store.

“I’d rather see one person from the restaurants, one person from retail and one person from lodging be invited to sit with you and help make decisions,” Pieters said.

Candidate Steve Miller, who owns his own Internet company, said merchants, instead of fearing the opening of The Home Depot and Wal-Mart Supercenter next summer, should use the stores to their advantage.

“The good news is that we’ve got Pitkin, Garfield, Summit and Lake counties are going to be driving over to access these stores,” Miller said. “You need to understand the value of these people also driving to your businesses.”

Councilman Mac McDevitt, who is running for reelection, said one of the best ways to spark the valley’s economy is for the business owners and various town and county governments to pool their brains and resources.

“If you elect pro-active council members and the business community is pro-active and works together, we can work to contribute to a greater valleywide economy and our piece of the pie will get bigger,” McDevitt said.

Second forum today

The Avon Business Association holds the second of two Avon Town Council candidates forums today at noon at the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau office on the south side of the City Market Building in Avon.

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.

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