Editorial: Avon land grab isn’t justified | VailDaily.com

Editorial: Avon land grab isn’t justified

Matt Zalaznick for the Editorial Board
Vail CO, Colorado

Taking somebody’s property without their consent is often called stealing.

But when a government agency, like a town or a fire department, really wants land that belongs to someone who doesn’t want to sell it to them, they call taking the property “eminent domain” or “condemnation.”

Critics call it a “land grab.”

Governments are only supposed to do this if there is no alternative and giving the owner a “fair market price” for the land serves the public interest. We don’t think the Eagle River Fire Protection District meets these standards in attempting take a piece of land that local businessman Jim Pavelich owns across the street from Pizza Hut in Avon.

Pavelich, who co-founded the Vail Daily but sold the paper in 1993, says he plans to put restaurants, shops and low-cost housing on the land. And we suppose he doesn’t want a 2008 “fair market price” for the land. He, or his heirs, if they plan to sell, would probably prefer the even richer 2028 or 2048 “fair market price.”

The fire district says it needs the land for a new station. The fire district says its old building in Avon is too small for new equipment. It says Pavelich’s land is the best location because it’s close to Interstate 70 and for responding to emergencies around town. The district also says its old station is in the way of downtown renovation planned by the town.

The last part of that is what really disqualifies the fire district’s bid in our eyes. If Avon’s plans to redecorate don’t include a fire station then Avon should find the firefighters a new home.

Then there’s the cost to taxpayers of fighting Pavelich for the land. Pavelich will likely sue, adding untold court costs to the “fair market value” taxpayers will have to cough up in order to take private property away from one of our neighbors.

Another cost may be the lost sales tax revenue from the shops and restaurants Pavelich says he wants to build there.

We’re all for firefighters having the best equipment and the most comfortable quarters, but not at the expense of a private property owner who, like lots of others in the valley, has been happily watching his land increase in value. We should all be so lucky.

Or unlucky.

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