Buckley helped bring trails, transit to Avon | VailDaily.com

Buckley helped bring trails, transit to Avon

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Daily file photoDebbie Buckley said mass transit and transportation were her priorities when she was on the Avon Town Council.

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” When Debbie Buckley moved to Avon more than 10 years ago, she said the entire town was a flood of new development and construction work, prompting her to run for town council.

After two terms on the Avon Town Council and various other local boards, Buckley, a Republican, is running for county commissioner to take the place of term-limited Arn Menconi.

Her platform includes lowering property taxes, working on traffic and transit solutions and providing a spectrum of care for seniors.

Buckley said improvements to traffic and transportation were the greatest achievements made to the town during her time on the council.

One of her platforms was to connect the town through bike paths, she said. She worked on the paths behind the Sunridge apartments and along Nottingham Lake.

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Traffic is also much smoother and safer through town, she said, after speed bumps in the downtown were replaced with pedestrian walkways.

The key to handling the county’s traffic problems lies in building and expanding the bus system, said Buckley, who is a past chair of ECO Transit.

“We need to build ridership and I’d like to see more routes go through,” she said “I’d also like to consolidate the (county and town) bus systems.”

Avon councilwoman Amy Phillips said that when funds for Avon’s free bus system were cut from 2002 to 2006, Buckley always made sure to advocate for bus riders.

“She was always making sure we were paying attention to people who were relying on the bus system,” Phillips said.

Development is something that has always been a problem in Avon, Buckley admits.

Some have pointed out that the town is sprawling and that it could have gotten more from the Village at Avon development.

However, she defends the development, saying that it was good for the town to keep the development within Avon, and the regional “big-box” stores that have come to the town are beneficial for residents.

“I think Wal-Mart has done so much for people here,” she said. “My grocery bill has gone down 20 percent since I’ve shopped there. I think people welcome some affordable options.”

In exchange for allowing Home Depot, Office Depot and Wal-Mart to move in, the town gained some affordable housing and a roundabout, she said.

She said she wouldn’t mind seeing a few more regional retailers like that move into the county, possibly by the airport.

In negotiating the Westin Riverfront Resort, the council also made sure there were public benefits like river access and trails, she said.

“I think Avon has actually led the way in affordable housing, especially with rentals,” Buckley said, pointing to Eagle Bend, Buffalo Ridge and the trailer park.

“We need more affordable rentals here. People don’t want to go downvalley to live,” she said. She said the county should look to the town of Vail to help out, and also try to buy and build on pockets on Forest Service land.

Buckley’s ideas on who should be providing affordable housing has always differed from the current county board’s, as well as some Avon officials.

She thinks private businesses should be stepping up to the plate, and said she is working with some of the chambers of commerce to come up with ideas.

“When businesses come to the table, they should have a plan for housing, especially Vail Resorts,” she said.

However, she declined to offer any concrete plans of action, something her political opponents have pointed out.

Her housing philosophy was a point that she and Avon Mayor Ron Wolfe disagreed on.

“She believes in a minimalist role, but I think there’s ample evidence that the private sector is not going to fix this,” he said. “There’s no way to produce enough incentives for developers to build affordable housing. There has to be some requirements, too.”

She has criticized the county’s formation of a housing authority, asking that it be put to a public vote first, as well as its $4.5 million investment in the Stratton Flats affordable housing development.

“With the economy the way it is, I don’t want the county holding the bag for $4.5 million if this falls through,” she said.

Buckley criticized recent property tax increases.

“It’s being wasted on things like new logos,” she said, referring to the county’s hiring of a marketing firm. “I think government is inefficient. Even though the county only gets a small part of the taxes, they should set the example. Every government needs to start tightening their belts.”

For example, instead of subsidizing child-care programs, the county should give some money to nonprofit programs that provide child care, she said.

“In Avon, we’d give people start up money for the first year,” she said. “We did it with the Vail Valley Chamber,” she said.

Phillips said that during her time with Buckley on the Avon Town Council, disagreements and differences in philosophy didn’t stop Buckley from working together with other council members.

“Even if we disagreed, it was never a personal issue,” she said. “That’s the problem with politics right now ” it becomes a bitter thing, and it was never like that for Debbie.”

However, Wolfe said that while Buckley was always in tune with the needs of families and residents in Avon, her stances on issues have been “middle of the road” and lacking leadership.

“Her presence on the council was bland and not particularly productive,” he said.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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