Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Meet the candidates: Week 2

It is election season in Crested Butte and we have a race for Town Council. Between now and the end of October, the Crested Butte News will be asking council candidates to answer questions related to issues in the community. We are asking that they keep their answers to no more than 600 words total. If you have a question you want us to ask them, send it to editorial@crestedbuttenews.com.

The News will also be sponsoring a Candidates Forum on Sunday, October 20 at the Crested Butte Center for the Arts. We will begin the questioning at 6 p.m. and expect the event to last between 90 minutes and two hours.

Ballots will be mailed out by October 18 and must be returned by November 5.

—Mark Reaman

 

Jim Schmidt

Mayoral candidate

Given limited property and money but unlimited brainpower, what can the Town Council do to get more workers living up at this end of the valley?

The town currently has 27 units of housing being built plus three more units that the Fire District is building. We just passed an ordinance regarding demolition of current structures built after 1952 (before that, they cannot be demolished) that requires an accessory dwelling unit if the replacement house is larger than the present one. We have come up with a lot of solutions over the years and I trust the council and the people of town will come up with more.

The Brush Creek property has potential for housing. I strongly feel that we should start over with open hearings on what the public would like and accept on that piece of land. A well test needs to be done to find out how many units the land can support there. I am very encouraged about working together with Mt. Crested Butte on housing. Their proposed short-term rental tax could greatly help in producing additional housing.

In general, do you think the town has too many or not enough regulations? Give some examples of what you think should change in that regard.

The regulations of the Town always need some tweaking due to unforeseen consequences. I think the town has some outstanding regulations such as BOZAR and the Short Term Rental ordinance that have worked very well. The challenge has been and will always be how to keep regulations fair and legal.

Name one of your favorite places in town.

The post office bench and my girlfriend’s house.

Favorite mode of transportation?

Two wheels, both bicycle and motorcycle.

What kind of phone do you own?

A Samsung Galaxy and I still have a landline.

Do you prefer beer, wine, a cocktail, coffee or water at happy hour?

Beer for happy hour and red wine for dining.

 

Mallika Magner

Council candidate

Given limited property and money but unlimited brainpower, what can the Town Council do to get more workers living up at this end of the valley?

This issue is central to everything most of us care about as a community, and is part of what actually defines community. It’s not just about housing workers, but how do we encourage a community that allows our workers to participate fully and equally in the Crested Butte lifestyle? As a basic starting point, I strongly hold that our coworkers, teachers, service providers, seasonal workers—our friends and neighbors—should live among us, integrated and not segregated.

I don’t want to see our most vulnerable workers shunted away from Town, away from recreational facilities, forced to rely on car transportation, without adequate amenities. I want to see more rental housing provided in Town—where workers can walk, bike and take the bus to the grocery store, work, trails and restaurants. I also think that affordable rental housing should be owned and managed by an entity such as the Gunnison Housing Authority. This will ensure that the central motive is to provide adequate housing and a good lifestyle, and that efforts do not get complicated with profit motives.

I think the Town and other stakeholders in the valley should work together in partnership, taking advantage of new state funding options, to fund rental housing in Town, possibly in the new proposed annexation. Regardless of the particular solution, I propose we use the term “accessible and affordable Crested Butte lifestyle” and not just “affordable housing” to guide and inform our efforts.

(Or we can get Mexico to pay for it.)

In general, do you think the town has too many or not enough regulations? Give some examples of what you think should change in that regard.

As the former town attorney, current Town Council member and after two stints serving on BOZAR, I have an appreciation for many Town regulations, as well as the history and arguments (for and against) behind them. I also find other regulations frustrating to deal with and/or in need of further attention.

Personally, I like many of our rules regarding historic preservation, which have kept the scale and feel of Town intact. And I’m appreciative of the Town’s Climate Action Plan, which seeks to reduce the impact of the Town on the environment. I am interested to hear what further steps we are willing to take to help our Earth. On the other hand, I think we should revisit our short-term rental regulations, reassess how STRs have impacted our community and adjust the regulations as needed. I think most people agree that ultimately our Town is better for having the majority of regulations we have in place.

Important though, which regulations I like or do not like is not that central to my role as a Council member. Rather, my job is to listen to what the people of the Town have to say, and then follow up with the right inquiries and analyses so that thoughtful and informed decisions can be made in the best interests of the community.

Name one of your favorite places in town.

Hard to pin it down to just one—the post office at noon to see lots of friends, the outdoor stage for Alpenglow, almost any Elk Avenue bench, the Nordic Center, Tony’s Trail…

Favorite mode of transportation?

My townie (never lock it!).

What kind of phone do you own?

A several-generations-old iPhone (it still works just fine, thank you).

Do you prefer beer, wine, a cocktail, coffee or water at happy hour?

Water; every hour is happy hour.

 

Will Dujardin

Council candidate

Given limited property and money but unlimited brainpower, what can the Town Council do to get more workers living up at this end of the valley? Feel free to mention the Corner at Brush Creek (or not) and tell us what lessons have come out of that process.

To be honest, recent Town Councils and especially staff have been working feverishly to get more housing at this end of the valley for our locals and workers even when we don’t see the progress immediately happening. If I have learned anything over the last two years on Town Council related to affordable housing, I would say nothing happens overnight, we have to keep trying to find workable answers in this valley, and it takes a while when we have to compromise between various parties to deliver a project.

In last week’s questionnaire I mentioned density and creative public/private partnerships as ways to help us make a meaningful difference in the affordable housing crisis. While we have done some great stuff so far, higher density is the only way we can try to fight our way out of the hole identified in the 2016 Gunnison Valley Housing Needs Assessment in a fiscally responsible and climate-thoughtful way. Considering we need to update that document ASAP, we know that the rental gap has only gotten worse while we have been able to make a little bit of progress on home ownership options. I’m hoping that we can really push some density when we start to develop the yet-to-be finalized annexation north of town. Even though it is years out, that may be one of the only opportunities within Crested Butte town limits to get more locals actually living in town en masse.

On a smaller scale, with Council support I pushed for Town staff to start to develop a new deed-restriction program similar to the InDEED program created by the town of Vail to help our community weather on a more even keel the cyclical economy that can devastate our housing stock; staff will be working on that in 2020.

I mention public/private partnerships as well because it is really hard for municipalities to go it alone, in terms of funding, without the help of state/federal assistance that can put burdensome restrictions on a project, for example at Anthracite Place. A public/private partnership such as the Corner at Brush Creek or the recent Employer Units on Block 76 can offer flexibility that other projects can’t unless we really want to raise taxes on people or make cuts to popular public programs.

As for what lessons have been learned from the Brush Creek process, considering it is still a process under way there is not that much to say yet other than a more public process during the RFQ/RFP back in early 2017 would have saved a lot of trouble, NIMBYism is a very real thing, Brush Creek is but one piece to the affordable housing problem, and if we can’t figure out how to get something done out there I may start believing in the common but arguable opinion that Crested Butte always finds a way to shoot itself in the foot.

In general, do you think the town has too many or not enough regulations? Give us some examples of what you think should change in that regard.

Considering the breadth of this question and that I used all my word count on the affordable housing question, I’ll say that the only way we can fight climate change is through municipal and state regulation. We cannot wait on the Federal government right now and big corporations (not all of them) have already shown that they would rather profit off the earth than help save it. Changes are happening, renewables are outpacing fossil fuels, but that is not enough. We need to look at our building codes, our transportation system, the energy grid, our diet and our personal and collective waste. Our Climate Action Plan will take big steps for our town in addressing these issues.

Name one of your favorite places in town.

Rec Path Bridge at Slate River.

Favorite mode of transportation?

Bike/skis/astral plane.

What kind of phone do you own?

A time-sucking device that I look at too often.

Do you prefer beer, wine, a cocktail, coffee or water at happy hour?

Whatever you’re having.

 

Candice Bradley

Council candidate

Given limited property and money but unlimited brainpower, what can the Town Council do to get more workers living up at this end of the valley? Feel free to mention the Corner at Brush Creek (or not) and tell us what lessons have come out of that process.

This question keeps me up at night. I think the first step is perception. We need to emphasize the importance of a local workforce to the preservation of our unique culture and economy. Pairing this with concrete actions property owners can take to support “local” that is the magic and soul of Crested Butte offers “buy in” rather than “enforcement.” A “Keep our Butte’s in Crested Butte” initiative similar to “Keep Austin Weird” preserves the vibe of the Butte and offers newbies “buy in” to the cool Crested Butte vibe.

If we could change the way people view our workforce and affordable housing, we could engage with achievable solutions. I don’t think we can tell people who to rent their property to, but we can educate them on the impacts that STRs have on our community and invite them into the fold. I say that knowing that most people understand, they just don’t care. It’s our job to develop attractive avenues of engagement that appeal to all members of our community.

Currently we are seeing long-running businesses close, unable to renew their leases, and others operating at limited hours due to workforce shortages. More people are visiting Crested Butte and we’re unable to offer them the full experience. We are losing the charm we once had, and our tax revenues are suffering.

In general, do you think the town has too many or not enough regulations? Give us some examples of what you think should change in that regard.

I think the regulations that we have are meeting our needs but not setting us up for the future. We need to look at scenarios for quick growth fueled by the sale of the mountain and the potential impacts it can have on the business community in town. I would like to see changes with parking on Elk and serious solutions for parking at The Center. Term limits for town elected officials are also on the table, to keep things fresh. An evolving, locally sensitive, grasp on the management of STRs (as I spoke about above) would also help me sleep at night.

Name one of your favorite places in town.

My business, Calico Queen Tattoo, is one of my favorite places in town. I love what I do, and I love being able to meet so many different people in the community.

Favorite mode of transportation?

I really like my Townie. It’s a Schwinn from the ’70s with sweet whitewalls and ram’s horns handlebars. A gentleman named Joe gave it to me when I moved here. I think it’s a Crested Butte initiation ritual—get a Townie, be a Townie.

What kind of phone do you own?

I only have a mobile phone these days.

Do you prefer beer, wine, a cocktail, coffee or water at happy hour?

I prefer hot tea or apple cider. There is a little bit of a mug-hugging, pumpkin spice girl in me.

 

 

Monique “Mona” Merrill

Council candidate

Given limited property and money but unlimited brainpower, what can the Town Council do to get more workers living up at this end of the valley? Feel free to mention the Corner at Brush Creek (or not) and tell us what lessons have come out of that process.

I’d like to see a “this end of the valley” housing coalition to develop a long-term master plan. Now that we have the GVRHA needs assessments and plan from 2016 and 2019 we can create a strategic plan for the next 10 years and beyond. Having a vision and a plan like this will put projects like Brush Creek into context. Bringing the whole north valley to one table will hopefully open up more funding opportunities and help us strategize keeping local families in town through the power of collaboration.

I also question if we have truly hit our limits on property and money. We need to be sure we are maximizing our town property in every possible way, and that our existing use of town land matches our priorities in terms of housing locals. Given the ongoing projects on some of the last remaining buildable town land, I’d like to pursue purchasing new land for future affordable housing projects wherever possible.

Financially, are we sure we are maximizing our income sources for housing? For example, should we look at taxing STR properties as commercial instead of residential as some other towns are doing? Or discuss buying back cheaper properties in town (i.e., condos) to convert them to long-term rentals and saving the costs of building new inventory? I think we need to make sure all deed restrictions are permanent and consider a program similar to Vail’s InDeed one, which incentivizes homeowners to commit their property to long-term rentals.

In general, do you think the town has too many or not enough regulations? Give us some examples of what you think should change in that regard.

No one likes regulations. Ideally, we all share the same values and balance our individual desires against what’s best for the community as a whole. As more money comes into town—money from people that don’t live here—our town’s best interest is often not a priority in their decision making process. Although none of us like regulation, regulation is one of the only ways we can influence and limit this outside money and power to protect our community values.

One example is STR regulations and another is keeping franchises off Elk. At this point I believe these regulations may even have to become tighter to keep Crested Butte local.

We are in a race to lock-in the future of this town, and locals are rapidly losing that race to outside money. We need to either move faster and more aggressively in terms of land and money to keep up, or we need to put the brakes on with regulation until we can. The alternative is losing this race for the soul of our town, and I’m not running for council to do that.

Name one of your favorite places in town.

Our home. We are surrounded by trails and awesome neighbors.

Favorite mode of transportation?

Bike, obviously.

What kind of phone do you own?

iPhone 6.

Do you prefer beer, wine, a cocktail, coffee or water at happy hour?

Martini.

 

Anne Moore

Council candidate

Given limited property and money but unlimited brainpower, what can the Town Council do to get more workers living up at this end of the valley? Feel free to mention the Corner at Brush Creek (or not) and tell us what lessons have come out of that process.

There is a considerable need for a larger workforce in the Valley. We have been in a reactionary position from changes that have happened within our community in the last five to 10 years. The current councils have done a phenomenal job developing opportunities that will benefit the entire Valley. I aspire to see affordable rental housing developments in Brush Creek, in town and on the mountain too if we can find the right place.

My first priority is the aid needed immediately in town. While I believe we are doing a good job looking towards the future, the question remains: What do we do about right now? Building to increase space doesn’t happen overnight so I propose we look into property that already exists. We need to incentivize current property owners to help get us through this rough patch while we thoughtfully develop plans and build in the most economic and Earth-conscious way possible.

I believe the most efficient way currently would yield the most results is cash incentives. I preface this by saying that this plan will not suit everyone, and in fact, it may only suit a small, select group; however, I believe at this point all support creates an impact. In order to live here from a young age, my family had roommates who taught me consideration and how to live with others of which I still value and use today. Communal living is healthy and changes one’s perspective in a magnitude of ways. The value to those who enjoy the privacy of their own home compared to renting a room at fair market value might not be enough money to sacrifice their personal space. In this way, I aspire to supplement that adjustment and incentivize people to open their homes. The renter would pay a fair market value for their room as well as receiving a supplemental income from the town to make up the value gap for the time being.

If we want a real solution for right now, we are going to have to pay for it. I have further ideas in regards to VRBOs who would be willing to long-term rent during the next one to three years, wherein we would hold their VRBO license during the rental period and further incentivize by waiving their fees for the amount of time they long-term leased once they get back in the game. I believe that there needs to be an exchange of value. What we can offer will not be the same as living alone or vacation renting your home, but it might be enough to dig out of a little debt, take that trip to Europe you’re always dreaming of or even put away some money for your kids’ college. Let’s make it a priority!

In general, do you think the town has too many or not enough regulations? Give us some examples of what you think should change in that.

I believe it’s important to note that regulations are not one-dimensional. We have regulations to keep things in check and also to protect us. There are small changes that progress towards easing local/guest relations, in matters such as parking and VRBO licenses and taxing. So when I look at town regulations, I want to look at them from all sides; fairness is most important.

Name one of your favorite places in town.

I love to bench sit, reading the paper, having some coffee and chatting with whomever comes by. There’s not a better place to be in town than sitting on a sunny bench!

Favorite mode of transportation?

Alley travel by foot.

What kind of phone do you own?

iPhone 6.

Do you prefer beer, wine, a cocktail, coffee or water at happy hour?

Cocktails for me!

 

Laura Mitchell

Council candidate

Given limited property and money but unlimited brainpower, what can the Town Council do to get more workers living up at this end of the valley? Feel free to mention the Corner at Brush Creek (or not) and tell us what lessons have come out of that process.

With the current lack of even reasonable priced rentals it’s a hard sell; however, as we watch rental costs continue to climb in Gunnison we need to change the mindset. Instead of spending an hour getting to and from work and spending money on gas you can have a better quality of life by not spending so much time traveling to work and home. As a community we also would have more people with some time on their hands (from not spending so much time in the car or bus) to volunteer in the community.

In general, do you think the town has too many or not enough regulations? Give us some examples of what you think should change in that regard.

I feel that the design review committee is too restrictive. While we want to maintain our character and appearance, many residents have large cargo trailers in their driveway for storage needs. If we could build some simple storage a lot of these would not be needed.

Name one of your favorite places in town.

Woods Walk on a Monday night in the summer.

Favorite mode of transportation?

Bike for town or Subaru for traveling out of town.

What kind of phone do you own?

iPhone 6s.

Do you prefer beer, wine, a cocktail, coffee or water at happy hour?

Beer or cocktail, depending on my mood.

 

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