Hoffmanns dismiss suit against Avon

The Hoffmann Commercial Real Estate company has dismissed a lawsuit against the town of Avon after the two parties came to an agreement over the shutters at Chapel Square. The shutters are now painted in a single color.
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What happened?

May: The Avon Planning and Zoning Commission denied an application for faux shutters on buildings A and C in the Chapel Square area.

Summer: The shutters are installed anyway.

August: The Avon Town Council upheld the planning commission’s denial.

September: Hoffmann Commercial Real Estate files suit over the denial.

December: The planning commission approves a plan for new colors on the shutters and doors of the building.

Jan. 22: Hoffmann Commercial Real Estate dismisses its lawsuit.

AVON — A hiccup in Avon’s relationship with the Hoffmann family seems to have been cured, clearing the way for new single-color faux shutters on a couple of buildings in town.

Hoffmann Commercial Real Estate last summer installed faux shutters, painted in a red-and-white striped pattern, on two buildings in the Chapel Square complex. That project drew complaints from neighbors and a project denial notice from both the Avon Planning and Zoning Commission and the Avon Town Council.

That ultimately led to a lawsuit against the town.

Town officials Thursday announced that Hoffmann Commercial Real Estate had “unilaterally dismissed” a lawsuit against the town on Jan. 22. That ends what so far has been the only conflict between the town and the company that owns most of the real estate in the town’s original commercial area.

Avon Town Attorney Eric Heil said the matter was resolved quickly and, from the town’s perspective, at small cost. The town had never filed an answer to Hoffmann Real Estate’s original complaint, which allowed the company to dismiss its lawsuit. The resulting legal bill to the town will total far less than the $5,000 deductible on what is, in effect, a litigation insurance policy.

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David Hoffmann, the head of the family-run company, said the lawsuit wasn’t his company’s idea.

“This was just a technical way to protect our rights,” Hoffmann said. “The town advised us that’s what we needed to do.”

In turn, Hoffmann Real Estate delayed action on its complaint until another, ultimately successful, application was able to make its way through the planning commission.

Commission member John Minervini said the second application drew little public attention or opposition and that board ultimately voted to approve the idea of single-color faux shutters on the buildings. Minervini described the original color scheme as looking a bit like “warning signs you’d see on a highway.” A single color is great improvement, he said.

The resolution of the complaint is part of what Minervini described as a general desire by the planning commission — which handles design as well as zoning compliance — to allow businesses to act as they see fit, within limits.

“When people want to invest in our town, we try our best to say yes,” Minervini said.

Minervini spent several years as an executive with the AutoZone chain of auto parts stores. He said that disputes between commercial developers and city design guidelines are fairly common. Minervini added he was “surprised” by the lawsuit.

“But I’m not surprised that (Hoffmann Real Estate) came back quickly and this was resolved,” Minervini said.

And, as has been the case since Hoffmann Real Estate first announced in 2013 the purchase of more than 200,000 square feet of commercial space in the original town commercial area, both the Hoffmanns and town officials say they’re happy to work together.

Town officials have generally quickly approved the company’s ideas, and Hoffmann — who has owned a home in the area for decades — continues to say he’s optimistic about his company’s future in Avon.

Hoffmann Real Estate has spent millions on building upgrades and public art, with more coming this year. A movie theater in the former Outback restaurant space is expected to open in April or May. And the company announced it has permission from Union Pacific Railroad to build a pedestrian walkway over the railroad tracks that separate company holdings including Boxcar Restaurant and Avon Bakery.

Hoffmann Real Estate also has a contract to purchase a 20-acre parcel just east of The Ascent condos on the south side of U.S. Highway 6. While that parcel will require a lot of grading, Hoffmann said there’s latent demand for commercial space in town.

“We have people calling every day, and we just don’t have any space right now,” Hoffmann said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, or @scottnmiller.

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