Candidates debate Main Street
Vail CO Colorado
AVON, Colorado – Town Council candidates offered different views Thursday night on how the town should move forward with the Main Street project.
Six candidates vying for four seats on the council in the Nov. 2 election participated in a forum hosted by the Vail Daily, Public Access TV 5 and KZYR.
Asked whether the Main Street project is too lavish or a good investment, candidates offered a variety of opinions.
Jim Benson, a former councilman, said he didn’t like the Main Street idea when it emerged in the ’90s and he doesn’t like it now.
“I’m really sad we’ve spent $6 million on realigning Lake Street,” he said. “It was working before. Was it perfect? Maybe not.”
Benson said the town has spent about $6 million already on the proposed $12 million project, including $200,000 on plans for Main Street.
“It’s like the town is trying to create something the businesses that are trying to benefit should be doing, not the town. I think we should put it on hold for the time being.”
Incumbent Rich Carroll said the designs for Main Street that date back a few years are too lavish and include things like $900,000 for bollards – short, thick posts – to direct cars where to go, expensive artwork and a fancy fountain.
“Main Street needs to be redesigned so it’s less expensive while still upgrading the look and feel of Avon,” he said. “It will occur with no increases in taxes when the Urban Renewal Authority can afford it.”
Incumbent Dave Dantas said a proposed street-heating portion of the project is a luxury the town can’t afford.
“It’s not being responsible to the taxpayers,” he said.
Chris Evans, a former planning commission president and owner of Evans Chaffee Construction Group, said he believes the completion of Main Street is critical to the town of Avon.
“Restaurants are great down here,” he said. “We just need a way to get people down here. Main Street is something people would come down to Avon to experience.”
He thinks the town should significantly scale back the project’s finishes and, he has said earlier, hold off until the town has the money to do the project right.
Todd Goulding, current planning commission chairman, said he thinks the key to the project will be how the town executes it.
“I”m not of the philosophy: ‘If we build it, they will come.’ … As businesses fill in around this area, then we hope to complement them and work with them to get folks to the front door,” he said.
Write-in candidate Paul Siemonsma, a senior estimator for Gallegos Corp., said construction prices are the lowest they’ve been in 10 years. He said the town should start getting pricing in for the project.
“Then you start eliminating your nonessentials from the project – your $900,000 bollards, your fancy water features, all those,” he said. “You keep doing it until you get the best ratio of what the cost of the structure is going to be to what the future revenues are going to be.”
An early Main Street concept had included shops, plazas and restaurants anchored by Nottingham Park with one-lane, one-way vehicle traffic leading from Avon Road to Lake Street.
The Main Street project was delayed in the fall of 2008 because of the economic downturn that slowed development within the West Town Center District, primarily development of the Westin Riverfront timeshares and the East West Partners condominium project.
A new proposal includes two options for construction that could start as the proposed development happens in the West Town Center District – the development in the area would provide the town with revenues that would allow for construction of Main Street in phases.
Town engineers whittled down some of the luxuries in the project that could create $4 million in savings by removing artwork, snowmelt and decorative concrete, bringing the project cost down to about $8.5 million.
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning contributed to this story.