Is Village at Avon stuck?
Vail, CO Colorado
AVON – In 1998, Avon officials approved what promised to be the town’s biggest development.
A dozen years later, a little more than half of the Village at Avon’s proposed 650,000 square feet of commercial development is complete.
And only 250 of the envisioned 2,400 housing units are finished.
The project is mired in legal disputes over money the town claims Traer Creek Metropolitan District owes.
And in the latest wrinkle to underscore the strain between Avon and Traer Creek, developers last month filed another lawsuit against the town, continuing a months-long battle over Traer Creek Plaza.
“We’re defending our property rights,” Traer Creek LLC spokesman Michael Lindholm said.
Developers want to divide Traer Creek Plaza, the shopping center next to Wal-Mart, into individual units that could be sold. Currently, developers can only lease space to tenants.
“As a property owner of the Plaza, Traer Creek LLC can’t sell a space to a tenant,” Lindholm said. “That would enhance the value of the property, so you’re affecting our property rights.”
Town officials have refused to put the request on the town’s meeting agenda, citing concerns over parking and outstanding legal disputes between the town and Traer Creek Metropolitan District.
Developers appealed that decision in February, but town officials ultimately upheld their original decision.
Dissatisfied with the town’s ruling, developers recently filed a lawsuit in Eagle’s district court, responding to the town’s findings and expanding on other ways the town allegedly impinged on their property rights.
Town officials dispute the claims.
“We feel that it’s just a collection of unfounded allegations on their part,” Avon Mayor Ron Wolfe said. “We will be diligently defending ourselves.”
The problem goes deeper than an agenda item.
Avon officials claim Traer Creek Metropolitan District owes the town nearly $2 million in outstanding payments, mostly for municipal services and reimbursement of sales taxes the town lost when the downtown Wal-Mart closed.
The town has filed suit against the metro district in an effort to recoup that money. The metro district disputes the amount the town claims it owes. The metro district claims it overpaid for municipal services in the past, Lindholm said.
Those lawsuits have been postponed until Aug. 22 so both sides can try to reach a settlement. Wolfe said the town had several settlement talks with the developers.
“I think they’ve been very open and very lucid, but there’s been no agreements,” Wolfe said.
Lindholm declined to comment on the settlement talks.
Given the tension between developers and the town, will the Village at Avon project ever move forward?
“I think it will definitely move ahead,” Wolfe said. “I think it would be a business disaster for the property owner and I think it would be a great loss to the broader community if we don’t develop that property.”
So far, developers have built the shopping center with Wal-Mart and Home Depot, the adjacent plaza that houses ZaccaZa! and other stores, plus 250 affordable homes in the Buffalo Ridge neighborhood.
But much of the project remains on hold.
Lindholm declined to speculate on which parts of the plan developers would tackle first if they reached an agreement with the town.
Wolfe said he’d like the developers to move ahead with an additional 250 affordable homes, modest-priced housing and at least one “Westin-style resort.”
An opportunity also exists for developers to build more retail space, offices, medium-sized box stores and upscale homes, Wolfe said. Potentially, developers could even build a movie theater or convention center, he said.
Yet even if developers and town officials reach a settlement, the recession still looms large over construction in the valley.
Lindholm said developers would look at a combination of commercial and retail development, but the scope and timeline of the work would hinge on the economy.
“When you’re working on a project like this one, economic conditions are extremely important,” he said.
Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or email@example.com.