Avon council told hotel development re-zoning request is confidential; it isn’t
AVON — A rezoning application for a large hotel development was presented to the council as being “confidential” in a memo from the town manager in January.
The development is not confidential, Town Attorney Eric Heil confirmed in a memo to council released to the public on Friday, Feb. 9.
“The Town Manager characterized to the Avon Town Council that the Colorado World Resorts Development was ‘confidential’ when first received and during the initial review period to determine if the application was complete,” Heil’s memo states. “Council member (Matt) Gennett questioned the correctness of this characterization and stated that development applications are public record when received. I have reviewed this question. The Colorado Open Records Act establishes a general rule that every document in the town’s possession is a public record.”
‘SHOULDN’T BE MAKING JUDGMENTS’
Council member Amy Phillips says she may have inadvertently kicked off the confidentiality mix-up when she asked for two separate council updates to be sent to elected officials from Town Manager Virginia Egger — one containing all confidential issues, and one containing all matters they were free to discuss with the public.
“My point was, if somebody asked me about something and I had gotten an email, I wanted to be able to go back to that email and say it’s on the confidential one, I can’t talk about it, or it’s on the public one, I can send them this document,” Phillips said.
In describing the Colorado World Resorts Development as confidential, Phillips said she was able to quickly identify that this project isn’t something she should be discussing with the public.
“When somebody’s talking about an application that’s been accepted and is under review that I’m going to be voicing my opinion on in a public hearing, it’s not really confidential,” Phillips said. “It’s just that because it’s in process and I’m acting in a quasi-judicial manner — which means that I’m kind of being a judge — until we see all of the evidence and hear from all of the sides, we really shouldn’t be making judgments.”
Nevertheless, said Phillips, “I do think there were some communications that were kind of characterized as confidential that never should have been,” she said. “And I think that’s at the root of (Gennett’s) frustration.”
Gennett’s emails with Mayor Jennie Fancher regarding the issue were disclosed in the Tuesday, Feb. 13, council packet.
Fancher asked Gennett:
“I have no idea why you have read so much into this simple paragraph in the Council Update: ‘A zoning application has been received for 25 condominiums, 185 hotel rooms and a small restaurant. The developer is Colorado World Resorts LLC. The application is not complete, so the project remains confidential. As I shared with you previously, the developer would like to break ground this year.’
“Your principals are disrupted but why? I read this to mean that the project will become public when the application is complete.”
“The words ‘a zoning application has been received’ are all you need to read.
“A zoning application is a public document that requires a public process, from start to finish, and once such an ‘application has been received’, it is in the public domain and on the public record. It is public information and I will not pretend it doesn’t exist, or that it is ‘Confidential,’ as “I am being told to do. What this demonstrates is a willful lack of transparency, honesty, and accountability. It is highly unethical and simply unlawful to withhold public information, which is what we are being told to do if asked about it by a member of the public … The principles being violated here should not be mine alone but everyone’s, including those of the public, mainly their trust in our government.”
DISCUSSING ON TUESDAY
The council will discuss the rezoning application — which would allow for a hotel to top out at 95 feet on the U.S. Highway 6 parcel and was recommended for approval by the town’s planning commission — at the council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 13. Phillips said she hopes the public brings any comments to the meeting.
“For a project of this size, it hasn’t had as much exposure,” Phillips said.