City Hall beat, fair and square
The mantra is repeated with a nauseating echo:
“You can’t beat City Hall,” they scream, sounding like former developers who gave up and became real estate agents instead. But those thoughts are for the weak and simple minded, those who follow ideologies based on liberal pessimism (pardon the redundancy).
If you really want to know how to fight City Hall, or Town Hall, or Village Hall, or Town Foyer or whatever vestibule floats your boat, you should talk to someone that was at the last town of Avon council meeting. Tuesday, Oct. 14, to be exact.
I’m telling you, those folks knew how to win.
The issue was simple: Big, bad wealthy developer was trying to change park and school land into commercial land, all under the confines of a planned unit development (PUD) amendment.
We’re talking the Village at Avon project, that massive doubling of the town of Avon originally approved back in 1998. It’s the new Wal-Mart and the Home Depot area, along with an additional 1,400 acres or so, give or take a box or two. Yep, the place most of you love to bitch about, but the vast majority of you apparently love to shop at.
There was nothing wrong with the developer asking. After all, it’s certainly within their right to request changes. But this was a request that went against everything that the Village at Avon was originally designed to promote, which was integration with the existing town from a commercial standpoint, and a brand new residential neighborhood complete with sensible schools, prosperous parks and content citizens surrounded by national forest, delightful deer, euphoric elk, perky porcupines and an occasionally lost lynx.
One big happy la-la family.
However, instrumental in that original approval was a very clear distinction between where the commercial development would go and where all the pretty houses would be built. South of the railroad tracks and north of the interstate – all would be residential, everything in between – commercial.
A few years ago the developer was granted commercial south of the RR tracks. A couple of neighbors complained and they succeeded in making Eaglebend Drive a dead-end street, but not enough to prevent the developer from getting what they wanted.
This time they wanted commercial north of the interstate, around the area of the new interchange just above the two big boxes.
This time, people complained by the boxload. First reading, only a few showed up. Second reading, a bunch more, and the council tabled the issue for three weeks. Second reading (part deux) – one helluva lot of people showed up to let the town leaders and the developer know what they were thinking and feeling, and they were thinking one helluva lot about it not feeling to damn good about it at all.
One after another they approached the podium to speak their minds, some very articulate and thought provoking, while others were so nervous they could barely say their own names above a whisper, but all with the same intent – insisting that the council members reject the proposed amendment to the PUD.
One young lady, who spoke well but admitted her naivete with the process, thought PUD stood for Peptic Ulcer Disease. Everyone laughed at her somewhat Freudian slip, but her point was still made.
The only exception was perhaps this one “unusual” individual who had the tasteless appetite to offer $10,000 to begin recall procedures for any councilmember who dared to vote against the wishes of the audience. This misguided half-empty glass jar of Planters needs to learn that you cannot accomplish a goal for the good of many by greatly insulting the intelligence of a few.
While I was offering five bucks cash for him to go away, his offensive frontal assaults were gently knocked to the wayside by the overflow of common sense and decency in the room, and the proceedings continued.
After well over two hours of public outcry, TOA councilmembers made the sensible and only choice they could if they ever wanted to make it outside to their vehicles with the same baggage they brought in.
They voted a big fat unanimous “NO” straight into the unhappy face of the developer. Well, they would have if the developer’s representative had been in attendance. Seems he had a prior engagement that was apparently more important, such as feeding his pet cobra or collecting rent from widows.
The room erupted in giant applause at the announcement, with cheers, hi-fives, and congratulations of all sorts being shared. It was really a cool moment in the local political scene.
Remember this next time you think your vote doesn’t matter or your opinion has no affect on issues: Even a disgraceful hack like Richard Carnes had an impact that night.
What a concept.
Richard Carnes of Edwards writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com