Avon candidates take on big issues in forum
AVON — Residents hoping for a spot on the Town Council talked issues Wednesday in their only candidate forum before the November election.
Moderated by Vail Valley residents Rohn Robbins and Amy Phillips, the debate touched on issues ranging from recent topics taken on by the council — including the $3.8 million stage being constructed in Nottingham Park and the $5.7 million town hall relocation — to more evergreen issues like how the real estate transfer tax should be spent and how can the town can better engage the Hispanic community.
Nine of the 10 candidates were present, with local Planning and Zoning Commission member Tab Bonidy being the only candidate who could not make it to the debate.
With that many candidates in attendance, answers to Robbins’ questions — which were generated by topics suggested by the current council, as well as by members of the attendance — had to be short. Several issues could be summed up with a basic response — do you or do you not support it?
On the decision to purchase and relocate town hall to the now-vacant Skier Building, which passed the current council on first reading during their last meeting and would be funded using certificate of participation bonds, the candidates were split on the issue.
Candidates in support of purchasing the building included Charlie Wolf, Sarah Smith Hymes, Tom Beaver and Scott Prince, who said through his experience on the Planning and Zoning Commission he has learned not to make a decision until he’s studied it thoroughly.
“I’ve dug deep into this, studied it and I support it,” he said. “It’s a strategic purchase.”
“This has to happen; the current building is obsolete” Beaver said. “I think they’re getting a good deal.”
Opponents of the town hall move and the way it’s being funded included Angelo Loria, Peter Buckley, Matt Gennett and John Minervini, who said he does not favor the use of certificate of participation bonds, which require annual renewal, therefore are not considered long-term debt and do not require voter approval to take on the debt.
“Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean it’s ethical or right,” Minervini said.
“I’m not convinced it’s a good buy,” Loria said. “That building has been vacant for 11 years.”
Megan Burch pointed out that the candidates’ position on the building may not matter, as the decision could be made by the time the newly elected take their seats on council.
“We should look into partnerships with private industry or maybe even bring some retail sales into that space,” Burch said.
Parking and the town of Avon’s recent decision to lease a plot of town-owned land to developers Hoffmann Commercial Real Estate for a parking lot, was the discussion that led the evening.
While the parking lot passed the Avon Town Council by only one vote, candidates were near unanimous in their support of the idea. The lone dissenting voice came from the only incumbent, Matt Gennett, who explained why he didn’t support the decision when it was in front of the council.
“The agreement had some fundamental flaws,” he said. “The lot is in the town’s main thoroughfare.”
Regardless of the wide-scale support of the new lot, the candates’ opinions on parking were varied.
“I hope we can take a longterm view and look at some creative solutions,” said Smith Hymes. “We have to look at things like shuttle buses from the airport and from the Front Range.”
“How can the council better engage the Hispanic community” was not among the questions generated through topics suggested by the current council. It came from the audience.
“I think we should improve transportation to Buffalo Ridge apartments,” Buckley said.
“We need to look at having a Latin music festival,” Wolf said. “And we need to put some soccer goals up in the park. There are kids playing soccer out there every day, and they use shoes as goals.”
The entire debate can be viewed at http://www.publicaccess5.org.