Mt. CB recall election candidate questions

The town of Mt. Crested Butte is holding a special election to recall councilor Roman Kolodziej from the town council. The election takes place until Tuesday, February 13 and all registered voters in Mt. CB should have received their ballots in the mail by now. 

There will be two questions on the ballot: the first asks whether to recall Kolodziej from the town council. If the majority votes are in favor of Kolodziej’s recall, then the second ballot question will ask for the selection of his replacement. Four candidates are running for the seat if Kolodziej is recalled. 

This is the final week of a question-and-answer series we are running to provide information to Mt. CB voters on the positions of Kolodziej and the four candidates. Here’s what they had to say:

Roman Kolodziej

What are your ideas for getting more affordable housing in Mt. CB? 

Here is an idea I’ve already promoted. 

Across Emmons Road from the soon-to-be-renamed “rasta lot” is a town-owned parcel of land at the northwest corner of the paid parking lot where snow is currently stored. Over a year ago, I proposed the idea of building affordable housing on it. Here’s how it might have, and still might, work. The town would donate the lot for development. The Downtown Development Authority (DDA), of which I sit on the board, could freely spend some of the millions of dollars it has on design, horizontal infrastructure and/or other project expenses. I approached other potential partners about them making cash or in-kind contributions to bring the project to reality.

Here are the issues the project ran into. 

The town’s main sewer line not only runs under the development site, but drops 50 feet or so from Emmons Road to the site itself. Moving the line wouldn’t be cheap, but it is possible. 

Access. The project could be accessed from Gothic Road directly, though a more effective access point would be through an adjacent parcel owned by the Muellers. 

Perhaps the most significant issue is the fact that the town’s parcel, and every parcel from there to the Grand Lodge, are all tied to one Planned Unit Development (PUD). Our project most likely needs to be a PUD as well to accomplish certain things (altering setbacks, height restrictions, etc.) but you can’t have two PUDs on top of one another. This would require “decoupling” the existing PUD, which is cumbersome but not impossible. 

Fun stuff, right?! Due to the challenges this idea posed, town staff felt time and energy would be best spent on other parcels. I still hold out hope for the project. 

What would be your approach to balancing goals that might conflict — such as promoting tourism and limiting environmental impacts, or balancing STRs with housing opportunities for locals?

One thing I’ve been asking for from the Tourism and Prosperity Partnership (TAPP) is their explanation of marketing “doneness.” In other words, what is the success metric they use for marketing that indicates they should turn it off or tone it down? They are very good at taking the “more = good” perspective, but being able to understand when to temper marketing efforts might help us better gauge tourism capacity in our valley.

How can the town help bring back more vibrancy to the Base Area?

Helping the three largest base area property owners decouple the PUD that restricts individual property development there. It would allow us and them to approach individual projects as we do elsewhere in Mt. CB.

If you are not chosen, would you run in the next regularly scheduled council election?

I’m not sure. During my time on town council, I’ve dedicated myself to thoughtfully fulfilling my role while advocating for my community and have contributed to some positive and impactful decisions. If enough voters believe, or are led to believe, otherwise and vote me out of public service, it will force me to reconsider where I choose to put my energy.

One person, dead or alive, you would choose to ride up with on the Silver Queen, and why?

I’d like to ride up the Queen with Winnie the Pooh. 

Chair lift rides offer me opportunities to be contemplative and reflective and I’ve found it satisfying to lean into both while riding to the top. Pooh demonstrates an idyllic approach to life that is kind and simple and sometimes when I get off the lift, I am able to see myself navigating life in a similar way, albeit for a brief moment. 

It would be great to talk with Pooh about his perspective and understand how I might carry those brief moments of clarity with me once I leave the lift. 

You wouldn’t expect a boring answer from me about the founding fathers or something, would you?

Bobbie Sferra

What are your ideas for getting more affordable housing in Mt. CB? 

Affordable housing is not only a huge challenge for Mt. CB, but this issue has been front center since I have been coming to Crested Butte over 15 years ago. I have just begun to educate myself on how new projects are financed using grant monies, low interest loans and tax credits. New developments require a number of units designed for affordable housing. The cost of building continues to rise and the north valley cost is one of the highest in the nation at $750–$1000 per square foot. Even a small house or duplex is close to a million dollars or higher to build. How is this affordable for towns, developers and qualified buyers? The question really becomes who is responsible for providing housing for employees. Mt. CB has done a wonderful job of providing affordable housing to town employees; however, I don’t believe that the town of Mt. CB should be using tax dollars to provide housing for the business communities. So the question becomes, how do we continue to have a vibrant workforce for the many businesses, and partner with these businesses to begin to solve these issues. The town should encourage developers to consider building rental units that may better meet the needs of low income and seasonal employees. In addition, the town should encourage the hotels and businesses that rely on seasonal employees to repurpose hotel rooms for affordable housing, as well as provide incentives to private individuals to rent to local workers. 

What would be your approach to balancing goals that might conflict — such as promoting tourism and limiting environmental impacts, or balancing STRs with housing opportunities for locals? 

Before any decision is made on a controversial issue, the community needs to be informed and have an opportunity for input. It is the responsibility of each town council member to be thoroughly knowledgeable about alternatives, be informed of pros and cons, and based on the data, make the best decision for the town. 

How can the town help bring back more vibrancy to the Base Area? 

The base area is the main hub of Mt. Crested Butte. By providing more restaurants, shops and entertainment, visitors would be encouraged to stay on the mountain. The town and resort should work in partnership to ensure essential businesses exist in the base area year-round and provide more opportunities for activities beyond skiing.

If you are not chosen, would you run in the next regularly scheduled council election?

Absolutely! I am retired and would like the opportunity to serve in the community where I live.

One person, dead or alive, you would choose to ride up with on the Silver Queen, and why?

I would choose my friend, Doctor Pete Harrelson. Pete is a long-time friend in Telluride who was the first person in 2024 to be killed in an avalanche a week ago. Pete was fun and lived life to the fullest. His death was a reminder on how fragile life is and the importance of friendship and staying in touch with those we love.

TOM ROLLECZEK

What are your ideas for getting more affordable housing in Mt. CB? 

Currently, there are provisions in place for new developments that allocate units to affordable housing as part of the building requirements. I suggest we work with each developer’s unique situation and always provide agreement for units, even if they are existing. The alternative is a monetary sum and inadequate to build in our high price environment. The goal should be guiding policy for beds locally, even if they are older units. I also believe there are many existing opportunities in the commercial sector of Mt. CB that are underutilized. Negotiating incentives with landowners for undeveloped lots, could offer viable options for future housing.

What would be your approach to balancing goals that might conflict — such as promoting tourism and limiting environmental impacts, or balancing STRs with housing opportunities for locals?

In any good negotiation, both parties walk away with less than they expected. If this is not the case, the resulting deal will fail as a result of the inequities. As the great Mick Jagger put it, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well, you just might find. You get what you need.” In respect to the two examples you provided, or many others, it’s beneficial to approach with an open mind that is ready to accept compromise.  

How can the town help bring back more vibrancy to the Base Area?

As mentioned, an intentional meeting between the base area stakeholders, landowners and town is overdue; let’s outline potential opportunities and set timelines for projects. Financial investment is a crucial part of a successful outcome and should be prioritized in these negotiations. Any resulting actions should encourage investment from local businesses such as retail, food and beverage, hotels and guest services. By focusing on economic vibrancy, we will create a landscape of locally owned businesses, exciting community recreation projects and a thriving base area resort.  

If you are not chosen, would you run in the next regularly scheduled council election?

Indeed, my original intention was to run in the general election 2024. I would likely re-apply.  

One person, dead or alive, you would choose to ride up with on the Silver Queen, and why?

Chuck Norris; I would like to see the North Face tremble under his skis.  

PETER ESSELSTYN

What are your ideas for getting more affordable housing in Mt. CB? 

In my five years in Mt. CB, I have heard countless “opinions” on how to solve affordable housing but none of them include quantifying the problem. In my experience, you are unlikely to solve a problem if you don’t characterize it first. To that end, I believe the town (including Crested Butte and Gunnison County) needs to determine what the current and future affordable housing needs are and set a road map with quantifiable goals and schedule to meet these needs. What are the types of housing needed? Dormitory style? Miniature housing style? Family style housing? If this type of analysis has been done, I have yet to hear about it. 

This affordable housing issue has been a long running problem. This past year, the Crested Butte News ran a story about the need for affordable housing in the “20 Years Ago Today” section. I felt I was reading an article that was written today! Perhaps with forward thinking planning and a clear roadmap, we won’t still be talking about this issue 20 years from now. 

Of course, this is not solely a Mt. CB issue. The town of Crested Butte and Gunnison County also are stakeholders in this quandary. Other resort towns that I have visited offer incentives to property owners to house locals. They may include property tax incentives, resort/business incentives for housing local employees, etc. I also question what the town’s responsibility is versus what the private employer’s responsibility is. I don’t believe the town(s) have the sole responsibility to solve this, but can provide a variety of incentives to support the needs of the local businesses.

What would be your approach to balancing goals that might conflict — such as promoting tourism and limiting environmental impacts, or balancing STRs with housing opportunities for locals?

At first glance, I would say that each of these items need to be weighed on their own merits and I don’t think there is necessarily a balance between each of these topics exclusively. We are largely a tourist-based economy in the north valley and to that end, if tourism takes a downturn, then many of the businesses and investments in the area will also drop. I certainly support limiting environmental impacts when done in a measurable and practical approach that makes a real impact. The environment and natural beauty here in the north valley are one of the biggest reasons we have a tourism-based economy.   

I don’t claim to have all the answers regarding STRs vs. housing opportunities for locals, but I struggle to connect STRs with solving local housing issues. The way I see it, there are many STRs currently available, but are market priced, making them out of financial reach for many of the seasonal and/or local workers. Also, STRs by definition are limited to 30 days making long-term living situations unrealistic. I am curious to know how Mt. CB allocates STR fees they collect to address opportunities for local’s living concerns and is this allocation sufficient.

How can the town help bring back more vibrancy to the Base Area?

When my wife and I purchased land in Mt. CB in 2016, we heard the rumors that Vail may purchase CBMR. We were excited for that possibility as historically Vail has invested heavily in their resorts and the base area at CBMR certainly was ripe for an injection of vibrancy. However, the property owners at the base area are diverse and not limited to a single property owner. I am of the belief that the town needs to provide a pathway for investment in the base area in terms of removing approval roadblocks and providing incentives. Vibrancy at the base area would be good for all involved. For right or wrong, when people think of Mt. Crested Butte, the first thought is the resort and base area. We already have excellent choices in lodging and transportation, and several very well-run restaurants at the base area, but after the lifts stop running in the late afternoon, the base area attendance quickly drops. An inviting and walkable base area is what people desire when they come to a ski resort complete with a variety of shops, day and night restaurants, bars that are open in the evening, perhaps a brewery, and attractions common in more developed ski towns, are all vital to the base area. Expanding on the existing great venues will attract more people to spend their off-slopes time in Mt. CB.

If you are not chosen, would you run in the next regularly scheduled council election?

Yes. I see that Mt. CB is at somewhat of a crossroads. We have not had a choice in town council members for many, many years! Suddenly we have four very qualified people vying for one potential seat. This tells me that the residents of Mt. CB are looking for a change in town leadership and are willing to step up to the challenge. I know a couple of the other people who are running in this election, and I believe Mt. CB will benefit from the contributions of any of these candidates. I and the current slate of candidates jumped into this race for a variety of reasons. I would continue with the same intentions I have now for the fall. I voted against Mt. CB’s last fall’s ballot question on term limits, as extending term limits doesn’t address the issue of why residents have not been running for town council. It is positive to see that this concern is past us given the number of contenders in this town council election.

One person, dead or alive, you would choose to ride up with on the Silver Queen, and why?

Hmmm, the Queen ride isn’t much time to talk with historical inventers or scientists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Nikola Tesla or Albert Einstein, but since we’d be on a chairlift for only 7 minutes, I’d like to talk with James Curran. James was a railroad engineer from Omaha, Nebraska and he invented the ski chairlift in 1936. I would be interested to know if he considered the fact that one of the best ways to cool an object (a person) is to hang it from a wire and blow cold air at it… !!!

BRUCE NATION

What are your ideas for getting more affordable housing in Mt. CB? 

There is currently a bill in the state legislature that is looking to tax STRs as commercial property if they are rented for more that 90 days a year. While I don’t think that bill is perfect, if enacted it would provide a lot of additional funds for affordable housing and reduce housing being bought up by speculators while still allowing for locals to rent their property for some extra income when they desire.

I would also want to promote more density where it makes sense. I think the Pitchfork development is a great model. It has a good mix of affordable housing and unrestricted housing, all in a relatively small footprint.  

What would be your approach to balancing goals that might conflict — such as promoting tourism and limiting environmental impacts, or balancing STRs with housing opportunities for locals?

I have two philosophies on balancing goals like these. The first is we need to make the easy way, the right way. The easier we make it for everyone to use public transport or walk or stay in a hotel the better. The second is to use tax policy to encourage the results we want to see rather than simply banning something we may not like. For instance, using STR taxes to pay for or incentivize affordable housing.

How can the town help bring back more vibrancy to the Base Area?

I would talk to the local business owners in the base area to try and find what support they need to stay open later. Many of the restaurants and shops are closing at 5 p.m. and not leaving much for people to do while there. I’m very encouraged by A Bar Above being open late seven nights a week with live music. How can we replicate their success with the rest of the mountain?

I’d also like to see some kind of food truck\cart access at the base area. We used to have a waffle cart, what happened to it?

If you are not chosen, would you run in the next regularly scheduled council election?

Absolutely. My original plan was always to run in November.

One person, dead or alive, you would choose to ride up with on the Silver Queen, and why?

Jesus. I’m not a religious man, but I still have a lot of questions. If he can walk on water, he probably shreds on snow.

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