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Building fee appears doomed

Matt Zalaznick

After months of debate, Avon Town Council appears ready to repeal the short-lived and unpopular deposit and give building inspectors more authority to write citations when projects go astray.

“It’s not forcing the government to come up with more taxes or fees which are not needed,” said Town Councilman Buz Reynolds. “The cost of construction is high to begin with, and it doesn’t need to be higher.”

The compliance deposit, which only became law last fall, required developers – before starting work – to pay a deposit equal to 2 percent of the value of their project to ensure they stuck to the plans approved by the town.

Earlier this year, builders revolted, calling the deposit a financial hardship and complaining it penalized developers who didn’t commit any violations. A group of builders then convinced the town to consider repealing the deposit.

The Town Council has placed a 60-day moratorium on the deposit and will likely repeal it next month.

At a work session Tuesday, council members and town planners discussed ticketing builders who either don’t follow plans or commit violations.

“The council is looking at creating penalty assessments, such as giving out tickets for violations like dirt in the road or construction sites not being clean,” Community Development Director Ruth Borne said. “This way we don’t have to issue a summons and wait for them to go to court. We can issue an immediate ticket.”

Town building inspectors may also get wider authority to “red-tag” projects, forcing builders to stop work and send all workers home until the violation is corrected.

Projects can now only be red-tagged when a developer violates the building code, by not meeting electrical or plumbing standards, for example, Borne said.

Building inspectors may get authority to red-tag a project when a zoning violation is committed. A zoning violation can be anything from a window being put in the wrong place to the building being too high, Borne said.

“When they see things being constructed incorrectly, or not according to plans, they can stop a project,” Reynolds said.

The town’s Planning and Zoning Commission approves building plans and advises the Town Council on other development issues. Mayor Judy Yoder, who has voted to keep the compliance deposit the way it is, said the commission was frustrated by developers who changed their plans after they were approved.

“We’re going to adopt an ordinance that allows the town to issue fines to people who are not doing the things they agreed to do,” Yoder said. “We’re trying to give the town more power for enforcement without having a builder come up with additional funds.”

Yoder called the new policy is a good compromise between the council, town planners and developers that would still ensure approved blueprints are followed.

“One thing we get a lot complaints about in neighborhoods is dirt in the streets. If a builder gets warned a few times and ignore the warnings, that would be an example of when they’d probably get a citation,” Yoder said. “But it wouldn’t discriminate against the 90 percent of builders and architects that do it right.”

Matt Zalaznick covers public safety, Eagle County Courts and Avon/ Beaver Creek. He can be reached at (970) 949-0555 ext. 606 or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.


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