Peterson: Not exactly a barnburner | VailDaily.com

Peterson: Not exactly a barnburner

The straw poll in our weekly Tuesday editorial meeting had the Hahnewald barn move going down in Avon’s big vote that wasn’t actually a real vote.

But going down by a margin of 891-104? Yeah, nobody saw that coming. 

On second thought, maybe we should have. Since the start of 2019, the Vail Daily has run 35 letters from locals on the barn debate. Of those letters, 27 came out against the move, while only six were for saving the 110-year-old structure.

And three of those pro-barn letters came from three of the four town council members who voted to move the barn at a contentious Feb. 12 meetingTamra Nottingham Underwood, Amy C. Phillips and Avon Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes.

Subtract those three letters and you’ve got the nearly 9-to-1 ratio that showed up in Tuesday’s count of the surveys sent out to Avon voters.

The other two letters? One suggesting the town of Avon save the wood but not move the barn intact and another from an Eagle resident wondering why there weren’t more pro-barn letters.

Welp, I think we know the answer to that question now.

The absolute best letter on the whole saga was from Avon’s Mike Spaid, who suggested that the town scrap its barn-saving plans and spend the money on more fireworks displays.

Wrote Spaid: “I ask you, would you rather be amazed by the sounds and sights of explosions over the wonderful town we live in, or do you want that money to go to a 100-year-old rotting barn that only was used for storage for the last however many years, behind a fence, that no one paid any attention to? I say we blow some stuff up and tear down that barn!”

Boom.

All jokes aside, there are lessons to be learned from Barngate. Residents raised a stink over what they viewed as a gross misappropriation of taxpayer funds and the town council, after coming under fire, was persuaded to send the issue to voters, even though Tuesday’s vote was non-binding.

If there’s one thing I love about living in small communities, it’s that passionate civic engagement. Talk about democracy in action. All those letters, street signs, mailers and social media posts forced the right outcome: a resounding no vote that showed just how wrongheaded the council’s 4-3 vote was.

Then again, being an elected official in a small community is never an easy job, and the four council members who voted to move the barn shouldn’t bear a scarlet letter now that Avon residents have had their say.

It’s time for Avon to move on.

That is, unless the pro-barn crowd doesn’t let the issue go. After spending $120,000 studying the barn and another $10,000 to put on the election, Councilman Chico Thuon hit the nail on the head Wednesday when he said, “people get mad when they think about what else that money could be used for.”

There’s certainly no shortage of suggestions from all those passionate letters.

As for me, just a sideline observer in this whole affair, I gotta say I’m with Spaid.

Let’s blow some stuff up.

Contact Vail Daily Editor Nate Peterson at npeterson@vaildaily.com or at 970-748-2929.