Avon landowner set for ‘vigorous’ fight
AVON, Colorado ” An Avon landowner whose lot faces condemnation has hired the same attorney who is defending the owner of Telluride’s “Valley Floor” in that prominent eminent domain case.
Darrell Waas, attorney for landowner Jim Pavelich, said his client will “very vigorously” fight the condemnation efforts of the Eagle River Fire Protection District, which wants to put a fire station on the Nottingham Road land.
“This is going to be a very hotly contested case,” Waas said.
Pavelich blasted the proposed condemnation of the land, where he plans a retail-commercial-office complex. Pavelich bought the land ” across the street from Pizza Hut ” in the early ’90s.
“It’s not the way I think our community should treat its citizens and property owners,” said Pavelich, a co-founder of the Vail Daily who sold the paper in 1993.
On March 27, the district filed a petition in District Court to use eminent domain
powers to condemn the land.
The fire district has offered to buy the land twice, but those offers were too low, Pavelich said. The first offer was for about $1.3 million ” and also included another $700,000 for owners of the adjacent tire shop for their land ” Pavelich said. The second offer was $2 million for Pavelich’s land only.
“It certainly was far less than what we’re looking for,” Waas said.
Eminent domain powers allow governments to take land for public uses, paying “just compensation.”
Pavelich said he doesn’t want to sell the land. His lawyer, Waas, said Pavelich is determined to get either “just compensation” for the 1-acre parcel or to stop the condemnation from happening at all, Waas said.
The fire district says the undeveloped piece of land is the best place for a fire station that would allow fast response times. The current station is small, is not ideally located and is getting squeezed out by Avon’s plan to redesign its downtown, said Chief Charlie Moore.
The district scoured properties in Avon, and was not able to find a property to buy, Moore said.
“I can’t stress enough that condemnation is the last resort,” Moore said.
Waas said the district has other, better ways to acquire a site for the station. The district owns land near Wal-Mart, but Moore said that land is too far from central Avon.
“It would be like serving Avon from Edwards,” Moore said.
The district has approximately $3.5 million available for acquiring land, Moore said. It is also seeking land for a new fire-ambulance station in Wolcott.
Pavelich said the district is unwisely targeting some of the most expensive land in Avon.
“If they pay fair value, it would have to be one of the most expensive fire stations in the country,” Pavelich said.
Undeveloped land that’s just to the north is significantly less expensive, he said. He also cited vacant land between City Market and Wal-Mart.
And Avon is missing out on some $1 million in tax revenue each year that Pavelich’s proposed development would create, he said.
But Avon Mayor Ron Wolfe said tax revenue isn’t the only thing the town considers when it’s making plans.
“The benefit of having a fire station there far outweighs any hypothetical sales-tax revenue that we might get,” Wolfe said.
And, the relocation of the fire station out of Avon’s core could allow for commercial development inside the core that would generate taxes, Wolfe said.
“The town can see much more revenue from the development of a piece of property in the core of town compared to the same sized property over on Nottingham Road,” Wolfe said.
Lawyers from both sides said the proceedings could last well over a year. Waas said Pavelich’s attorney’s fees ” which the fire district might have to end up paying ” could exceed $100,000.
Waas is representing the owner of 570 acres of land, dubbed the “Valley Floor,” that the town of Telluride is trying to condemn for open space. Seven years after the case began, it is now before the Colorado Supreme Court.
Waas admitted that condemnation can be hard to fight.
“The law is really stacked in favor of the government when it comes to taking people’s property,” he said.
But recent court decisions have made judges and legislatures more attentive to the rights of landowners, Waas said.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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