Letter: Stop wasting our money, Avon
As an Avon resident and taxpayer who has twice helped protect the Town Council from financial folly, I am once again stunned at the town’s complete lack of regard for fiscal responsibility in its continuing consideration of the Hahnewald barn. Before addressing the Town Council’s current madness, I want to review prior advice I have given. When the council wanted to pay over $4 million for the Skier building, I met with its representatives to tell them they were overpaying and I was rebuffed. Not one to give up, I wrote articles for the Vail Daily and helped to marshal support for canceling the town’s purchase contract. One year later the town purchased the building for less than $2 million. When the town wanted to grant a $500,000 subsidy to Sun & Ski, I again met with council representatives and was told Sun & Ski would not come to Avon without a subsidy. I ignored this naïve view, and appeared before the council and lobbied against this subsidy. The Town Council finally did vote down the subsidy and Sun & Ski signed its lease in Avon the very next day without the subsidy.
So here we are again — the town is considering spending almost $400,000 of taxpayer money to move the Hahnewald barn with no clear budget or plan for its repurpose. Estimates of this repurposing are upwards of $6 million. Let me say that again — upwards of $6 million. This is taxpayer money that Avon residents worked extremely hard to earn. It is money paid to the town from the egregious real estate transfer tax. And it is about to be flushed down the proverbial drain because of a romantic attachment to a barn that has had zero significance to Avon’s history, beyond being used as a storage facility by the Nottingham family.
In thinking about this potential $6 million project cost, the town fails to recognize the value of the land upon which the barn would sit. Were the town to sell the land under the old Town Hall, or ground lease it to for a commercial project such as a hotel or conference center, it could realize millions of dollars in such a transaction. Let’s say that this land is potentially worth $2-3 million. In that case, the barn would actually cost the Town $8-9 million because of the lost opportunity with a potential land sale/ground lease.
Think about what the town could do with $8-9 million. Affordable housing, redeveloping the Town Hall and fire station, tax breaks to citizens, reinvesting in projects that actually lead to the enhancement of Avon businesses and an increase in residents’ quality of life. If this were a commercial project being developed by a private citizen, a $6-8 million investment would be expected to generate $400-600,000/year in income. Instead, we hear that the barn would look nice on a postcard.
If anyone wants to know why citizens nationwide are disaffected with government, they need not look further than Avon, where our Town Council loves nothing more than to spend taxpayer dollars on frivolous projects in a ready, fire, aim approach, to wit — relocate the barn and then figure it out. As an Avon resident, I ask my fellow citizens — “What are you going to do when the Town Council runs out of your precious tax dollars it is wasting?”
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