Letters to the Editor
Behind the mirrorDon Rogers, you made some observations Wednesday in “Quick Takes” about the differences in relationship between the town of Avon and The Village and with East-West Partners and their Confluence project. Holding up the mirror so that we elected officials see ourselves more clearly is always valuable and often painful. As one council person, thank you.I do take issue with the situations that you cite as possible demonstrations of different or preferential treatment of one developer versus another. Judging by responses to your column from readers and by conversations that I have had with people, we need to get more information, and the other sides of the situations, out to the public. For one, I am always available to take on any idea, concern or action no matter how that discussion may go. Residents should talk to their elected officials and to Town staff about their concerns. Come to meetings and participate in the debate. An anonymous complaint, comment or question sent to the Daily is like putting a message in a bottle and throwing it into the sea. It is an act of desperation, deludes the writer into thinking that he or she has been productive, and gets no results.Now the facts. You point out differences between The Village and the Confluence project and there are indeed differences, but your reasoning and conclusions are incorrect. Let’s start with railroad crossings. Post Boulevard, in The Village, is a major north-south thoroughfare, an interstate highway spur road, takes major congestion off of Avon Road and has a grade-separated railroad crossing. This road could not endure even occasional stoppages for traffic on the tracks so the separated crossing was wisely proposed by The Village, followed the demonstrated “best practice” by the town in the design of Avon Road and was embraced by the town. Since there was no existing development on the Traer Creek land, the long approaches required to attain the separation in grades were possible. The Village took the best course of action.Connections to the Confluence, now called Riverfront Village, are a different set of facts and needs. Here the Railroad tracks isolate two pieces of “downtown” Avon from each other. Connectivity is essential for pedestrians and vehicles. Pedestrian passage over the tracks, by way of the easterly crossing, can easily accommodate occasional disruption by a UPRR train every year or two – that being the current usage pattern. The other crossing, the westerly one, provides vehicular connectivity, prevents the Confluence from being a dead-end street, provides a better traffic pattern and flow and is an additional entry point for emergency vehicles. Traffic will be light and local, very much unlike the Post Boulevard situation. This traffic can stop from time-to-time should a train wander through town. Because these two crossing are in the middle of “downtown,” existing buildings and streets prevented any practical consideration of grade-separated crossing approaches.The two situations are entirely different, the needs are different and the best-choice solutions are different, and have been made by the Town Council. As you said, “This tale of two crossings is rather telling …” but what it tells is the result of good staff analysis and the best decisions being made by a town council and a developer. It is not a story of biased treatment.The Colorado State Public Utilities Commission has granted the two on-grade crossing as we requested and now the Union Pacific is inventing “new information” to try and overturn that ruling. The PUC process that examined our needs and plan and the positions and operations of the UPRR was very thorough and we made our case resulting in a strong decision rendered by the administrative law judge. We have stated our total willingness to work with the Union Pacific so that whatever real traffic materializes will harmonize with our needs to connect across the tracks. A couple of crossing gates can completely solve all concerns. We can get there; I wonder why the UPRR can’t. They are after all a regulated monopoly with an obligation to the public as well as to their own wishes. We will continue to fight for the crossings because they are best for the entire town.Your other points: the water tank subdivision has been tabled for further work, the council agreed to entertain a lease for a temporary charter school site, and no proposal for a gas station has ever been submitted to the town. The water tank plan has already required a variance by the town, which the council has approved. The subjects of the variance were deviations from the contractual standards for the steepness of road grades and the tightness of curves. The council fairly and critically evaluated all aspects of benefits to residents and inconveniences and costs to the developer and concluded that the best balance was to approve the requested variance. This was a complicated and lengthy process, but we came to a good endpoint for both parties. The outstanding subdivision is a quasijudicial process, which disallows all council members from commenting or discussing it outside of the public meeting, so I can say no more … now.The council did approve the further development of a short-term lease proposal for the Stone Creek Charter School to temporarily use a town public works site in The Village. In a 4-to-3 world of council decisions, this was a 4 to 3 vote. Of major concern to Avon is that if the school fails to find a permanent site, we will be in the onerous position of having to evict them when the town core and The Village further builds out and we need the site. This is not a position that we never want to be in, but we decided that the impassioned leadership, staff and parents deserve a shot at success. This will, if eventually approved, be a deal between Avon and the school. A separate agreement between The Village and Avon is being pursued to provide a compensating temporary site for town use. The charter school has made this request directly to Avon and not to The Village because our site is the only one that can provide water service meeting the school’s timetable. So far all parties seem to be headed to a mutually successful outcome. We all want less expensive gas, but if that is achievable it can be done in a multitude of locations. What about the south side of the interchange, what about the valley floor, what about out closer to Highway 6? Does this interchange have to be like every other interchange? Do we make everywhere look like anywhere? Magnus Lindholm has demonstrated that his organization does good work and I am confident that they will consider all of the values that this community holds in deciding what, where and when something will be built and keep these in balance with profitability. As elected officials we are obligated to ask these hard questions not out of any reason other than wanting to keep Avon from developing for, as an example, like the Silverthorne interchange.Pull out all stops for East-West partners? Hardly so! Months of negotiations and demands on both sides culminated in a very complete and professionally done agreement favorable to both sides. It was unanimously approved by the Town Council, which attests to the quality of the contents. One of your readers protests the investment made by Avon in the Confluence, an investment that will pay back by more than 10 times in the next few years. Yet they and others fail to recognize the huge investment that we made in The Village – 25 years of sales taxes and tens of millions of dollars! Both cases are investments that make economic sense to Avon and further our mutual objectives. Why pick one over the other to criticize? More reasonably, a critic should object to both but they have an obligation to understand both. After that understanding is at hand, an intelligent and business-savvy person should conclude that no deal is perfect from every perspective but many can be good business sense. To roughly quote an ancient truth “let not the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Both Avon and The Village have agreed to come to grips with our strained relationship and work process. We have plans to come together and identify and fix substantive issues and get on a better track. In our 4-3 world one, two or even three points of view cannot determine an outcome, so you should conclude that there is more to any issue than whatever motivates a single councilor. Ron WolfeMayorTown of Avon
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