Vail Daily column: Why Avon should just say no | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Why Avon should just say no

Don Rogers
My View
Don Rogers
Laura Mahaffy/lmahaffy@theunion.com | The Union

Some of Avon’s leaders plainly are in a stampede to buy the Skier Building.

In their fever, they have:

• Had to change “facts” in their “Fact Sheet” about the proposed purchase and move.

• Bitten on the seller’s inflated “limited appraisal report” that included the owner’s profit, fees and even a $75,000 statue, all irregular inclusions.

• Overestimated the construction quality of the building.

• Overestimated its power to bring “life” to a dead retail area behind the recreation center across the street, about a block away from the current Town Hall.

• Overstated the cost of renovating the existing Town Hall.

• Done an incomplete analysis of their space needs and renovations for both the Skier Building and the existing Town Hall.

• Deliberately sought to characterize the referendum as about the means of financing rather than the wisdom of buying the building. Avon’s leaders are well aware — if many voters are not — that the only legal means for the referendum was on the TABOR loophole that allows municipalities to take on long-term debt with certificates of participation.

• Overestimated the cost of leasing vs. buying with those certificates of participation.

• Seem not to know about a deed restriction on the existing Town Hall property that precludes private development while touting the property’s redevelopment potential.

• Claim to be following the vision of the 2007 West Avon Redevelopment Plan although that plan actually called for a new town hall that included commercial, retail and office space, as well as affordable and market-rate housing. Virtually none of that is in this proposal.

Oh, and the public largely was left out of the loop while officials met many times among themselves about this idea. One critic quipped they’re moving Avon forward while leaving the citizens behind.

Any wonder that there’s a referendum on this?

The very Avon citizens now questioning the wisdom of buying the building — including actual experts in municipal government, commercial finance, development and remodeling — could have been part of the planning and due diligence that got short shrift in this headlong rush for a “vision” that doesn’t really stand up to reality.

Instead they have been dismissed in rather junior high school fashion as kooks with darkly vague “motivations,” whatever that is supposed to mean. It’s an awfully convenient way to address concerns you can’t answer with facts.

Still, the truth doesn’t change for being ignored.

The building without parking simply isn’t worth the price they are paying with taxpayer money, which could and should go to better causes.

Removing the potential of a restaurant or store that would provide tax income contradicts the notion that a municipal building would bring life to this would-be retail district.

There are no competing buyers for the building that has remained empty since it was built over a decade ago. Think there might be a reason for that?

We love the idea of Avon progressing. It’s the stampede in light of so many flaws and evidence of not quite thinking this through that’s the concern.

Avon stands to vastly overpay for a long empty shell of a building to move Town Hall a block away on a misguided “vision” that this would bring new life to a dormant retail district and provide infinite possibilities at the existing town hall property.

To do so, the town will have to break rules it holds for others, in direct contrast to its declaration in its own “Fact Sheet” not to do so. I’m not sure there’s an original “fact” left on the sheet that has stood up to scrutiny.

Still, this is the voters’ decision to make, based on their judgment of the range of “facts” and opinions on the Skier Building.

Thanks to citizens who were able to muster up this referendum, at least they have a chance to go over a cliff with their eyes open, helped along by cheerleaders clearly more concerned with self-pride than public prudence.

This is moving Avon forward?

Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at drogers@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2920.