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Headline: Building deposit faces overhaul

Avon hammers out a less-punitive way to ensure builders follow blueprints

An unpopular fee meant to ensure Avon developers follow and finish blueprints approved by the town will likely be repealed and replaced with a less stringent law.

The controversial “compliance deposit” was passed with little fanfare by Avon Town Council in November. It requires that developers pay a deposit equal to 2 percent of the cost of their project in order to receive a building permit.

The deposit is aimed at preventing builders from changing plans or not finishing projects. But in the following weeks, several developers who build in Avon complained the deposit was a financial hardship that swallowed up cash needed to pay workers and buy building materials. Last month, it appeared the developers had won their battle when council members voted 4-3 to discuss repealing the deposit.

The deposit was up for repeal Tuesday, too, but council members instead placed a 60-day moratorium on the fee to give themselves and town planners time to come up with a less-stringent law.

“Before we change our minds arbitrarily, we should do some more investigation,” Councilman Mike Brown said. “If there’s a better way to do, and there probably is, let’s go there.”

Town Council voted 4-3 not to repeal the law. Councilwoman Debbie Buckley, along with Councilmen Rick Cuny and Pete Buckley, was one of the three council members who supported an outright repeal.

“Why don’t we repeal it and work on something we can all agree on,” Buckley said. “Something that meets the needs of developers, meets the needs of the town and doesn’t drive up the costing of housing.

“My main concern is the compliance deposit is going to drive up the cost of housing,” she added.

Before the vote, members of Avon’s Planning and Zoning Commission, who developed the compliance deposit with members of the town’s Community Development Department, urged council members Tuesday not to throw the fee out.

The Planning and Zoning Commission advises the town on building projects and other developments and helps formulate the town’s building code.

“I think it would be a step backward to reverse the compliance deposit,” Planning Commissioner Andrew Karow said. “If a couple of builders make noise about it, I don’t think an entire year’s worth of work should be thrown out. That’s bending very easily.”

Councilman Rick Cuny refuted the suggestion that council was bowing to the complaints of a handful of vocal developers.

“I’m personally not bending to anyone. I haven’t been contacted by one builder,” Cuny said. “I don’t think it’s a bad idea and I think we already have the tools to force builders to follow the rules.”

Councilman Buz Reynolds, who voted to consider a repeal last month, proposed the moratorium and said he supported coming up with some other way to ensure developers follow designs.

The council will meet with the Planning Commission and builders in the coming weeks to attempt to hammer out a more acceptable way to ensure developers stick to the blueprints approved by the town.

“We may come to same conclusion of getting rid of the deposit and what they may come up with is something that doesn’t penalize all contractors,” Town Manager Bill Efting said.

The town may have jumped the gun when it passed the compliance deposit, Efting said.

“It’s one of those things we made a kind of a hasty decision on,” he said. “It’s a step we kind of missed and we need to go back and work with contractors,” he said. “And if there’s a way to build a better birdhouse, let’s do it.”

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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