Editorial: Keep locals in sight, Avon | VailDaily.com

Editorial: Keep locals in sight, Avon

Vail Daily Editorial Board
Vail CO, Colorado

Will Avon become just another overpriced ski town for the rich? Or will it remain a place where the middle class can find a decent job, buy a home and raise their kids?

That is the dilemma Avon town leaders are facing as second-home owners continue to buy up once-affordable condos in town. Real estate in Avon already is out of reach for many local workers, but the town ” once considered the cheaper, downvalley housing alternative to Vail ” still has held on to a good portion of its community.

In 2007, Avon town officials made some creative choices in an effort to retain the town’s full-time residents. The board approved exempting Avon homebuyers from a 2-percent real estate transfer tax when it is their second time buying property in Avon. The move, suggested by Councilor Dave Dantas, aims to encourage Avon homeowners to stay in town when they decide to move up the property ladder.

The town also got started on its urban renewal project, which will redevelop parts of Avon’s downtown to make it look and function more like a downtown, with sidewalks, a bus depot, shops and restaurants.

But we’re disappointed with the town’s recent attempt to strengthen its housing guidelines. Town leaders first proposed requiring developers to dedicate 20 percent of their projects to affordable housing, or paying a little more to build that housing elsewhere in town. While developers complained that the proposal would be too restrictive, it’s important to note that other resort towns and Eagle County plan to require even more than that. Still, Avon went back to the drawing board and has yet to come forth with a new proposal. We hope to see a new proposal, with just as much bite, early in 2008.

Avon town officials have demonstrated leadership in the environment, first by conducting an energy audit on the town itself. The survey revealed that there are several ways Avon could reduce its energy use and be better to the environment. The Avon Recreation Center will be a likely target for a green makeover in 2008 ” perfect because it is the town’s biggest energy suck and because it is a very visible and popular community amenity.

We also applaud the town for spending a little extra to buy a hybrid bus and a more fuel-efficient diesel bus. Purchases like these show Avon understands that making the environment more of a priority means making it more of a priority in the town’s budget.

It’s too bad the town hasn’t been able to show that kind of leadership and stewardship toward its citizens in its dealings with the Traer Creek Development, LLC., the developer of the Village at Avon. Squabbles between the two prompted the town to stop its bus service to Wal-Mart, a popular stop on the Avon bus route. The town says Traer Creek Metropolitan District ” the entity formed by the developer to pay for basic services in the Village at Avon ” should pay for it. The metro district disagrees and has contract language to support its position.

The town should resume the service and not let its citizens pay for its poor relationship with a developer.

In fact, our advice to Avon leaders in 2008 is to put its citizens first in all its decisions, whether it be affordable housing, the environment or transportation.

Otherwise, Avon may eventually find it has few citizens to serve at all.

” Tamara Miller for the Editorial Board

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