Sunday, September 15, 2019

Meet the candidates for Crested Butte Mayor and Crested Butte Town Council

Between now and the beginning of November, the Crested Butte News will be asking the candidates for Crested Butte mayor and town council questions related to issues in the community. We are requesting that the six candidates keep their answers to no more than 600 words. We are also asking readers to send us their suggestions for questions to ask in the newspaper. Send your suggestions to editorial@crestedbuttenews.com.

And do not forget that we will be hosting a Crested Butte News Candidate’s Forum on Sunday, October 18 at 6 p.m. at the CB Center for the Arts. We will give a couple minutes to those who wish to speak for (or against) the two proposed sales tax increase issues – the one funding the RTA and the other being put forth by the town council to address parks and recreation funding. Everyone is invited to come in person and ask questions of the candidates or the people representing the issues.

Ballots will be mailed to eligible voters starting October 13 and they must be returned by the official election day of
November 3.

This week we ask the candidates to focus on the issue of workforce or affordable housing.

—Mark Reaman

W.E. “Skip” Berkshire, mayoral candidate

SkipBerkshire_October22015

As a member of the Town Council, do you think the affordable housing issue should be a priority of the town? Is Crested Butte doing enough in both the short-term and long-term view for the issue?

Of course affordable housing should be a town priority. The inflated property values that go with being in such a beautiful place and also a ‘resort’ will always present a challenge for affordable housing. I believe that Crested Butte is doing a good job in addressing the affordable housing issue. We currently have around 50 affordable housing units owned by locals with another 24 units slated to be available in late 2016. Additionally, there are over 200 long-term rentals (Accessory Dwelling Units—ADUs) available in town with another 30 becoming available next summer with Anthracite Place. Everyone would like these numbers to be higher, but when you consider that we have about 1100 housing units in Crested Butte, our efforts are pretty respectable.

What new action, if any, should the Town Council consider taking toward affordable housing?

In addition to continuing our currently planned efforts, I believe we need to work more closely with the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority to develop valley-wide solutions to the affordable housing challenge. Crested Butte cannot solve this problem by itself. We must develop collaborative solutions that involve all the communities in the valley as well as businesses, and the County Commissioners. Working together, we stand a better chance of succeeding.

Have you ever short-term rented your house in Crested Butte? How will this impact your view of the issue if the council decides to address more oversight or regulation of short-term vacation rentals in town?

No, I have never short-term rented my home. This will not impact my view of the short-term rental issue. I live in a neighborhood where several homes are short-term rented and, for the most part, the experience has been positive. Rather than the neighborhood feeling empty, there are families staying in these rentals that are enjoying Crested Butte. I’ve had the opportunity to meet these folks and have enjoyed interacting with them. Having said that, I also feel that the town needs to make sure that short-term rentals by owner (RBOs) do not unfairly compete with established lodging businesses. The town needs to fully understand the RBO landscape and then develop appropriate and reasonable guidelines/rules. Let’s get this figured out and then move on.

Favorite happy hour cocktail: Donita’s Margarita or Montanya’s Maharaja.

When you leave Crested Butte to vacation, where do you like to go?

Usually someplace with a great landscape. Our son lives in Lake Tahoe, so we find ourselves in that area fairly often. We like just about any place west of Colorado—mountains, deserts, and oceans preferred. When we travel abroad, we focus on the mountains—Dolomites, Alps, South Island of New Zealand.

Do you have a pet?

We have two 16-year-old cats, Barney and Mariah. Mousers without equal.

We stole this one from the Republican debates: Ronald Reagan’s Secret Service code name was Rawhide. What would your Secret Service code name be? Why?

Frank—given to me by a boss after I was ‘brutally frank’ during a discussion.

Glenn Michel, mayoral candidate

GlennMichel_October22015As a member of the Town Council, do you think the affordable housing issue should be a priority of the town? Is Crested Butte doing enough in both the short-term and long-term view for the issue?

Affordable housing will be a top priority for the town if I am elected mayor. For Crested Butte to maintain its sense of place, provide essential services, and a strong economy we must continue to increase our affordable housing stock. Our restaurants, retail stores, the school, and local government to name just a few, depend on the ability of locals to live here. Affordable housing is no longer a question of political ideology, but rather an economic reality. Simply put, we are all affected by the affordable housing issue in one-way or another.

As a current Town Council member I have contributed to many achievements for affordable housing during the past four years. The town is installing infrastructure in blocks 79 and 80 that will be entirely devoted to long-term housing. Anthracite Place is under construction, which will provide for 30 affordable rental units. We saved several housing units from going into foreclosure and prevented them from losing their deed restrictions. The council made a zoning change to allow for micro-lots, a new effort to enable homeowners to build smaller, more energy efficient houses. Lastly, we have partnered with Gunnison County stakeholders to develop a comprehensive housing needs study to inform future housing needs. Certainly, there is more to be done, but the town can be proud of its recent efforts.

I will ensure that the town is disciplined and follows a long-term affordable housing strategy. The issue is not going to become any easier as time passes, and we should continue to invest what we can each year. It will be important to work with developers to include affordable housing within new projects to provide the essential housing that future uses will require. Most importantly, the town needs to work with all the stakeholders in the valley to find effective solutions.

What new action, if any, should the Town Council consider taking toward affordable housing?

There is still so much the council can do! It will depend on money, staff time, and the priorities of the new council. Here are some of the new actions the council should consider:

• Install the infrastructure for block 76 just north of Rainbow Park.

• Build more long-term rentals.

• Increase dedicated funding sources.

• Develop Avalanche Campground south of town.

• Work with stakeholders to create dorm style units for seasonal workers.

• Enforce the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) deed restrictions.

• Pass an ordinance that encourages houses to remain in the long-term rental market.

• Create a tax or licensing fee on VRBOs with revenues directed towards the affordable housing fund.

• Enhance public transportation in the valley.

Have you ever short-term rented your house in Crested Butte? How will this impact your view of the issue if the council decides to address more oversight or regulation of short-term vacation rentals in town?

For the past four summers we have rented our house to the same family from Dallas for just over a month. I understand the issue and the reasons locals choose to rent their homes for a short period of time. I will be able to provide valuable input to the discussion about more oversight or regulations from my firsthand experience.

Favorite happy hour cocktail: PBR

When you leave Crested Butte to vacation, where do you like to go?

Canyon hiking in Utah.

Do you have a pet? Lucy joined our family five years ago, she is an Alaskan Malamute. My wife also has a horse and my son a hamster.

We stole this one from the Republican debates: Ronald Reagan’s Secret Service code name was Rawhide. What would your Secret Service code name be? Why?

GM4M—Glenn Michel for Mayor!

Erika Vohman, council candidate

ErikaVohman_October22015As a member of the Town Council, do you think the affordable housing issue should be a priority of the town? Is Crested Butte doing enough in both the short-term and long-term view for the issue?

I definitely think affordable, local housing should be a priority for the town of Crested Butte. I think we can come up with even more creative financing options for affordable housing based on success stories from other places. I think we need to ramp it up so we can stop losing local workers and families to Crested Butte South and Gunnison. We need people living in town full-time year-round to create a thriving year-round economy that is more resilient to the ebb and flow of tourism. I also feel we need affordable office and business space in town to incubate new businesses and help existing ones grow and thrive.

What new action, if any, should the Town Council consider taking toward affordable housing?

I think we could look into changing the zoning and FAR requirements in some blocks to allow conversion to multi-family, duplexes or to allow homeowners to add accessory dwellings or office spaces on some lots in town. This would also benefit local homeowners who are currently struggling with mortgages or are VRBOing their homes by creating opportunities for them to generate rental income while also creating more housing for the rental pool. We could also look into allowing some lots with two houses on them to be sold as separate, smaller lots.

Have you ever short-term rented your house in Crested Butte? How will this impact your view of the issue if the council decides to address more oversight or regulation of short-term vacation rentals in town?

I have long-term and short-term rented my home in the past. That was when I traveled a lot for work and it made sense. Short-term renting my home helped me realize what an effective means of generating income short-term renting can be and that it could be a viable means of helping town residents (myself included) afford their homes if they fall on hard times or (God forbid) retire :). I think if a homeowner lives in the home at least eight months of the year that they should be permitted to rent it short-term. I don’t think we should allow homes in town to be used primarily as vacation rentals or if we do, they should either have to alternate years, renting it long-term to local workforce or be taxed, and that tax be used for affordable housing.

Favorite happy hour cocktail: Why is everything about drinking in this town?

When you leave Crested Butte to vacation, where do you like to go? 

Nowhere. I traveled for work for 20 years. I prefer staycations now, such as camping or hiking to Aspen for music.

Do you have a pet? 

Yes, a dog, Chula.

We stole this one from the Republican debates: Reagan’s Secret Service code name was Rawhide. What would your Secret Service code name be? Why? 

I actually have a nickname like that in Central America. They call me “The Tractor” because I’m strong but slow (changing paradigms is slow, steady work).

Aaron J. Huckstep, council candidate

Huck_October22015As a member of the Town Council, do you think the affordable housing issue should be a priority of the town? Is Crested Butte doing enough in both the short-term and long-term view for the issue?

Affordable housing has to be a priority for the town—not just now, but at all times. If the town is not actually doing something for affordable housing, it should be planning, at a minimum.

In the short-term, the town’s efforts with Anthracite Place and the construction of Block 79/80 infrastructure are huge projects. The council has pushed for additional research on ADUs due to the acute housing crisis this summer and participated in CAST’s study of short-term rentals. The town staff and Housing Authority staff are stretched to the limit executing these projects. I don’t see how we could be doing more in the short term.

The longer-term view needs more attention, although that’s tough in a crisis. The valley’s significant employers—including the town—have experienced challenges in recruiting new personnel over the past year due to housing issues. This reinforces the need for cooperative housing planning, which requires collaboration throughout our valley. I’ve been pushing this type of collaboration for the past four years, and will continue to push until I can’t push anymore.

Long-term planning for affordable housing also requires addressing the revenue side of the equation. We cannot expect to make significant progress on affordable housing by relying on a revenue stream principally tied to new commercial development, when new commercial development doesn’t occur that frequently.

What new action, if any, should the Town Council consider taking toward affordable housing?

It goes without saying that the town should continue down the path of “fixing” regulations related to ADUs and short-term rentals. Beyond those, here are some ideas: First, consider changing the zoning code to make the construction of an ADU the permitted use, not a conditional use. This should increase the number of ADUs in new residential construction. Second, work with the county, Mt. Crested Butte and Gunnison to develop a long-term housing plan considering opportunities at Lazy K, the property at Brush Creek Road (co-owned), potentially another LITEC project, and to identify target purchases of land throughout the valley for future housing projects. Third, discuss how to generate a better revenue stream for housing. Fourth, with Mt. Crested Butte and the Housing Authority, consider developing a set of incentives to bring ADUs located in the upper valley (outside of town) into the rental pool.

Have you ever short-term rented your house in Crested Butte? How will this impact your view of the issue if the council decides to address more oversight or regulation of short-term vacation rentals in town?

No. I will look at this issue with an eye towards balancing the need for reasonable regulation, the need for housing, and the need for “hot beds” within the greater community to support our recreation economy. Anecdotally, it appears short-term rentals are displacing long-term housing options for locals. That’s disappointing, but shouldn’t surprise anyone. I do not believe massive regulation will automatically turn those properties back into long-term rentals.

Favorite happy hour cocktail:

Strand.

When you leave Crested Butte to vacation, where do you like to go?

Places like Crested Butte—remote, beautiful, with great people.

Do you have a pet? 

Monkey the white fluffy cat.

We stole this one from the Republican debates: Reagan’s Secret Service code name was Rawhide. What would your Secret Service code name be? Why? 

Although the Lone Ranger was a hero, I prefer The Marmot. Why? Ask Jason Stubbe.

Laura Mitchell, council candidate

LauraMitchell_October22015As a member of the Town Council, do you think the affordable housing issue should be a priority of the town? Is Crested Butte doing enough in both the short-term and long-term view for the issue? 

Affordable housing needs to be a priority so we can keep locals living in the town where they work. Town Council recently moved $200,000 into the affordable housing fund and I feel that is a good start. Honestly, when people harangue the Town Council about not taking action sooner I remember not so long ago that some families had to leave during the economic downturn and certainly affordable housing was not in such dire need. That being said I think Mt. Crested Butte needs to be more involved and participating in this problem. Also, with the loss of Marcellina Apartments that provided low rents for workers I think we need to consider both workforce housing and affordable housing to meet the needs of this community.

What new action, if any, should the Town Council consider taking toward affordable housing?

We should consider micro housing on lots 79 and 80. Or find an appropriate area in town to have another trailer park similar to Red Lady Estates. I think if we went forward with a new trailer park it is important for the owners to also own the land making financing on said housing easier to attain.

Have you ever short-term rented your house in Crested Butte? How will this impact your view of the issue if the council decides to address more oversight or regulation of short-term vacation rentals in town?

I do short term my home during the summer, typically when I am on vacation and a few extra weekends throughout the summer. As a family we do this to help pay for our own vacations or to make ends meet. As a council member I think we need to identify what homes are being used primarily as a business and those homes should be taxed at a commercial rate. Or there needs to be a threshold number when your home goes from being taxed as residential or commercial. I do not think that a town can tell you what you can or can not do with your private property so I would have to say that while we need to refine what’s appropriate I would not shut down VRBOs and the like.

Favorite happy hour cocktail: 

Vodka and soda.

When you leave Crested Butte to vacation, where do you like to go?

Puerto Penasco, Mexico or Moab, Utah.

Do you have a pet? 

Yes, one dog, Murphy.

We stole this one from the Republican debates: Ronald Reagan’s Secret Service code name was Rawhide. What would your Secret Service code name be? Why?

Lava. I picked it up on a Grand Canyon river trip last year. I did not flip in Lava.

Paul Merck, council candidate

PaulMerck_October22015As a member of the Town Council, do you think the affordable housing issue should be a priority of the town? Is Crested Butte doing enough in both the short-term and long-term view for the issue?

Yes, I think affordable housing is a major challenge to the Gunnison Valley. This subject has many variables that require research and studies that are being faced by many communities. This is not just a Crested Butte issue, we need to involve Mt. Crested Butte, Skyland, Crested Butte South, and Gunnison to help this situation. This has always been a topic in Crested Butte. We have been working very hard to bring economic growth to town without spoiling the flavor and funk however, with growth comes sacrifice and new challenges. This is a very difficult balance when dealing with housing, workforce, and limited space.

What new action, if any, should the Town Council consider taking toward affordable housing?

I think the Town Council is currently working very hard on this issue as well as the town staff and Gunnison Housing authority. I have attended several special meetings on this issue and have also been approached by people on this subject, and I think we need to develop a special committee on the matter to involve property management, business owners and concerned citizens.

Have you ever short-term rented your house in Crested Butte? How will this impact your view of the issue if the council decides to address more oversight or regulation of short-term vacation rentals in town?

Most of the times I’ve rented my house it has been on a long-term basis and I rented to young working locals. The experiences have taught me a number of lessons along the way. There are already guidelines in place governing long- and short-term rentals in Crested Butte. I think if the public becomes aware they could help the town enforce the codes. Possibly printing these guidelines in the newspaper and being more transparent on the issues would help individuals follow the codes.

Favorite happy hour cocktail?

Cold beer.

When you leave Crested Butte to vacation, where do you like to go? 

When I vacation I like to go to a place for an extended time and live as the locals do. My preference since living in the mountains is to travel to a beach town. I also enjoy short trips as well to similar communities and fun cities.

Do you have a pet? 

No.

We stole this one from the Republican debates: Ronald Reagan’s Secret Service code name was Rawhide. What would your Secret Service code name be? Why?

“The Rock.” This name was given to me in Army Officer Candidate School for being a leader, being physically fit, and remaining solid during challenges.

 

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