Wolfe, McDevitt, Sipes lead in Avon
A challenger and three incumbents were leading a race for Avon Town Council that election officials said was too close to call late Tuesday night.
Ron Wolfe, a town planning and zoning commissioner, appears to have a comfortable lead with 392 votes. Incumbent Councilmen Mac McDevitt and Brian Sipes also appeared well on the way to retaining their seats with 359 and 335 votes, respectively.
“I pledge with my fellow council members to set a new agenda for Avon and create plans to deliver it,” Wolfe said. “Working together, it definitely will not be business as usual in Avon, and I think that’s what voters wanted.”
With a few hundred “provisional” votes left countywide, some of which were cast in Avon, the battle for fourth place settle in between Councilwoman Debbie Buckley and Rene Martinez, a highly visible challenger who spent twice as much money on the race than any other candidate.
Provisional ballots are those cast by voters whose names were not on the registration list and filled out an affidavit to vote.
The competition among a dozen candidates energized the race, McDevitt said.
“I think they spurred those that fortunately came out on top – they spurred them to really get out and campaign and especially, to listen to the electorate,” McDevitt said. “I would like to see those that didn’t prevail get involved. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”
Despite the results, many voters Tuesday said they were looking for some new faces on the Town Council. Sipes has only been on the Town Council since June, when he was appointed to replace Rick Cuny, who resigned because he had moved out of town.
Candidates who appeared to fare well with voters were those who promoted invigorating Avon with more vibrant commercial districts, including a Main Street and a skier gondola.
“I’ve been a resident for six years and a homeowner for four, and I think it’s time for a change” said Kate Steffens. “I think people who are up for re-election have had a chance to do what they’ve offered to do, and it’s time for some new blood.”
Major issues in the race were the Main Street shopping district some have envisioned for the west side of Avon and the gondola Vail Resorts is planning to build to carry skiers from the town up to Beaver Creek Mountain.
Jon Buchli said he voted for candidates he thought would make those two projects a reality.
“I really think we need to move on getting a pedestrian mall and the gondola going,” Buchli said. “It would rejuvenate the town and bring some of the attractiveness of Vail, Edwards and places like Boulder.
“It would connect our identity with Beaver Creek,” he added. “Right now, we just feel like an exit.”
The hitch in the gondola deal is that Vail Resorts has asked Avon to pitch in $3 million to build it. Vail Resorts also wants the gondola to launch from a small ski village on Avon swath of land called the confluence –alongside Avon Road between the Eagle River and the Seasons building.
As for the Main Street, the town has approved a plan but is looking for developers to help build the “Town Center” on the walking path that runs from Avon Town and between the Seasons building and Avon Town Center.
The new Town Council will also oversee further development at the Village at Avon shopping and residential complex, where The Home Depot and new Wal-Mart are under construction. The stores are set to open next spring or summer.
The four new council members also face a budget slump that some fear will only worsen when the Village at Avon opens next summer. The developer, Traer Creek, will get all the sales tax revenues from the stores until it pays off bonds used to build the complex.
Voter Ryan Bowers said he thought some of the younger candidates were more in touch with residents’ financial problems.
“I think they’re a little more representative,” he said. “I’m still pissed off about those horse statues in the roundabouts. I think younger people realize what a bad snow year can do and will pay more attention to our future.”
A new city manager will have to be hired to replace Bill Efting, who will leave Avon at the end of the month to run the city of South Padre Island, Texas.
But in a small town, the issues were pretty simple for residents such as Adam Simpkins, who said he cast a vote for Albert “Chico” Thuon, who finished in the middle of the field.
“My dog ran away one day and Chico picked her up and carried her around in the back of his truck all day,” Simpkins said. “So I had to come down and give him a good vote.”
Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.