Buz Reynolds — candidate for Eagle County Commission, Dist. 2
Buz Reynolds, Jr. is an independent county commissioner candidate for a reason.He has environmental concerns. While in Europe recently, he was astounded to discover how a small Austrian town develops energy for heat: By burning the towns trash.He also has concerns about too much government involvement. He believes the business of building housing should be a private enterprise, which is why he wags his finger a bit at Eagle Countys Miller Ranch project.He believes in private property rights and acknowledges how important the construction industry is to the local economy. But he laments the urbanization of Eagle County and has plenty of worries about what will happen to local workers when theres nothing left to build.Reynolds, who has been involved in local politics for more than a decade, said he was approached by Republicans and Democrats to run on their respective tickets for the District County Commissioner seat in 2004. He turned down both. Reynolds doesnt want to be trapped into the loyalty of one group of people.I dont want to betray the people who would back me, he said. A resident of Eagle County since 1976, Reynolds public service resume is long. He served on the Avon planning and zoning commission for 13 years, the towns council for eight years and has be the towns mayor for the past two. He also serves on the local water board and was a Vail ski patrolman from 1978-1982. As a general contractor and developer, Reynolds company contributed to Eagle Countys growth. As far as the other candidates go, Reynolds has been one of the longest residents. But his run for county commission doesnt come a minute too soon or too late for him. Now is the time for me, he said. East Coaster goes westBorn in Bronx, N.Y., Reynolds grew up and was educated on the East Coast. He learned to ski on the icy slopes there and given the chance to race in Vail, he went. I was a terrible ski racer, he said. I just did it. It was always a thrill when I finished. I would fall down on my face a lot. But I just wanted to finish.He stayed in Vail, and signed up to ski on a team sponsored by a local ski shop. As far as real jobs went, Reynolds had to be resourceful. He had a degree in limnology the study of fresh water biology but jobs requiring that kind of knowledge were in few supply in Eagle County at the time.But Reynolds did well in math, and he had worked as a carpenter on the East Coast. With the countys building boom in its primal stages, he did what many people do in this valley: He got a job in construction. If you could swing a hammer, you were in, he said. His love of Colorado soon spread to everyone near him. Reynolds brought most of his family out here, including his father, Buz Reynolds, Sr., a policeman who got a job with the Eagle County Sheriffs Office. His father eventually served as Avons mayor in the 1990s. His girlfriend, Monica, came out, too, and eventually became his wife. From the deck behind his Wildridge home, Reynolds can point to several of the homes he helped build with his family-run company, The Reynolds Corporation. About 40 percent of the homes in this subdivision were built by his company, including his own.For a long time, ours was the only house on this road, Reynolds said. They used to plow this road just so the bus could get up here and take my daughter to school.After spending so much time helping build the community, Reynolds decided he should become involved in the community, too. Time for the big leaguesReynolds compares his time on the Avon planning commission to elementary school and his time on the council to high school. Understanding how government entities work, how they regulate land use and balance budgets, was a learning process, Reynolds said. There is so much knowledge you need to have, he said. I really dont feel most of the other candidates have the background that I have to understand how everything works. Reynolds has plenty of concerns, plenty of questions and a few answers. Like most of the other candidates, Reynolds believes the county commissioners need to do a better job of communicating and coordinating projects with towns and metropolitan districts. He believes its time to expand the current county commission from a board of three to a board of five. More rural parts of the county, such as Wolcott, Basalt and Bond, arent represented on the board, he said. With three, decisions are made in a very nondemocratic way, he said. With five, we would get a more democratic vote.Another concern: The county needs to start taking a serious look at its water rights. Referring to federal regulations that allow local entities to lose those rights if they are using that water, Reynolds said the county needs to look into storage. Ultimately, he added, growth in Eagle County will stop when there isnt enough water to serve new developments.He doesnt pretend to have all the answers.Eagle County is my home, he said. Ive lived here almost all my adult life. I have learned the ins and outs of this county and I have an interest in making this the very best place to live.
Q. Is affordable housing as pressing an issue now as it was 10 years ago? As the county continues to grow, do you think the county’s housing policies should change, and if so, how? Is there enough housing priced affordably for Eagle County’s middle-class families? Is there enough housing priced affordably for Eagle County’s low-income families?A. I feel affordable housing should be developed as needed. I do not believe that the county and the other governments in the county have communicated well when it comes to this issue. Each governmental entity seems to do what is best for their community without contacting other areas to see what the planning and economic ramifications of the development would be. Currently I know that the town of Avon has over 900 affordable housing units with approval for 600 more at a later date. This does not include all of the Vail Resorts units along Route 6 at the Tarnes. I believe that currently there are over 2,000 affordable housing units existing in Eagle County. The market is flooded with units in the Berry Creek Fifth and the units that the town of Vail is building are now coming online. Personally I do not feel that Eagle County should develop low-income or affordable housing. They should give incentive to developers that do. To own a home in this country is almost every American’s dream. Making housing affordable is something that takes ingenuity and foresight by community leaders and large developers.Q. As county commissioner, how would you balance the desire for open space with finding land for housing? What areas of the county do you see fit for housing? What areas would be better left as open space?A. The valley floor is where I feel most of the affordable housing should be. In the same breath, I think the river corridor should be left as open space for all citizens to enjoy. Open space, I think, is extremely important to protect the quality of life we have all come to enjoy in this county. Most of the residents of Eagle County move to this area for the lifestyle or to escape from areas that have become too urbanized. The wisdom to plan now for the future, I believe, is critical for the protection of open space.Eagle County needs to inventory all available affordable housing properties and secure this land for future needs. This does not mean that they have to purchase just raw land, but there are existing buildings that could and should be re-developed.Q. Would the Board of County Commissioners operate more democratically if there were five board members, rather than three? Would you consider turning Eagle County into a home-rule county to accomplish this goal? What are the obstacles and benefits of such a move?A. Five County Commissioners has been a major part of my platform and it has been for the eight years that I have been on the Avon Town Council. The county has grown tremendously from its early days as a cowboy and farm community. The speed at which it is currently developing warrants more representation for more control.I have also seen that three commissioners can be extremely dysfunctional. Personal agendas and personalities can be kept in check if there are five and we will also have a more diverse and democratic vote on issues.There are challenges to becoming a home-rule county; a new charter will have to be created so that elected officials can represent their area. This will be a challenge to prepare but I think it is in the best interest for all of Eagle County. I do stress the fact that this concept of five commissioners should be left to the citizens of Eagle County to choose, not on the shoulders of the county commissioners.Q. Does Edwards take up more than its fair share of the county’s resources and funds? Should the county return more of the sales tax revenue collected from towns back to the towns? Should Edwards incorporate?A. I don’t think Edwards takes more of its fair share of the county’s resources. I think the county spends a lot of its resources in Edwards. The ballfields in the Berry Creek Fifth are a tremendous asset for all of Eagle County residents, not only for recreation but for the economic windfall for special events. But it seems like Eagle County is filling in the areas needed for Edwards to become a town at the expense of all taxpayers. Now the commissioners are considering a rec center that will mainly be used by the people of Edwards. Does this mean that the county is willing to reimburse the town of Avon for their expenses on their rec center or to pay for the development of the town of Gypsum rec center? The balance of spending revenues needs to be even between all areas of Eagle County. I do believe that Edwards should incorporate but I think the residents of Edwards should have the choice. The migration of the shops and restaurants has been a large asset to the community’s sales tax revenues and it is the largest residential area in Eagle County. It is time that the residents of Edwards start making very critical choices on infrastructure, open space, general health and vitality of its economic development, but again, the choice is theirs.Q. What one thing would you do to ensure the future viability of our water supply?A. Water supplies are another major part of my platform. Water is the lifeblood of our community just like it is everywhere else in the world. We have the water rights to supply all of the needs of our current and proposed population in the future but it does not mean that we have the actual water. Eagle County needs to take the lead to inventory all current water rights in all metro districts and then look at storage capacities for current and future needs. The southwest part of the United States is starting to go through a major water crisis, the need for water is multiplying as Lake Powell slowly drains, and snowpacks are not keeping up with the needs of all. Now is the time to plan storage capacities for our future development and economic stability in Eagle County.We have to be careful about giving developers the ability to build without water rights associated with the projects. Purchasing water rights through respective districts should be done very carefully or not at all. The need for water is not going to go away, it is going to increase. We only need one good drought year and it will become a major issue.Q. A significant percentage of the middle-class wage jobs in this county are connected to the local construction industry. These jobs include not only construction workers and contractors, but architects and engineers, just to mention a few. Are you concerned about what would happen to these jobs as the county becomes completely built out? What should Eagle County do to diversify its economy? A. I have been building, developing and excavating in Eagle County for the last 28 years. I have seen a decline in the amount of work and an increase in the amount of people who work in these fields. There is still a large part of Eagle County that is slated for development. The need to develop the property that we have left should be developed with quality in mind, not quantity. Eagle County should purchase land and work with developers, possibly giving incentives to create affordable housing for the betterment of Eagle County. Also, the county could use these properties to possibly entice clean industry or larger professional companies to the area. I do not mean to give the county’s assets away, but rather to make it more affordable for leases on county owned land for business to move here, if it helps to create a stronger economic work force.It would be great to create an economic environment where our children could stay and work in Eagle County. I have talked to many young people who do not see their careers in Eagle County because of the lack of diversity in the job market.Q. What recreation needs do you feel are still not being met in Eagle County? Is it time to consolidate the county’s recreation districts? A. Recreation needs are very diverse in Eagle County. I think Mother Nature has created a wonderful playground for all of us to enjoy. It would be a good program if Eagle county could work with Vail Resorts to have a ski pass for long-time and full-time residents so it becomes more affordable.Eagle County should be at the lead in helping to create a rec center to be used by all residents. But the development and cost to maintain should mainly be absorbed in the area that would benefit the most. I feel the cost to consolidate all of the county’s rec districts would be a large drain on the county’s revenues. The expenses of running the town of Avon rec center has been subsidized ever since its conception. The facilities are great assets but are costly to staff and maintain.Personally, I would like to see if Eagle County could work with the Forest Service to enhance existing trails that are used by both cross country skiers and mountain bikers.Q. What is the most significant issue facing the county today?A. I think water storage is an issue that should be addressed as soon as possible. Also, the issue of affordable child-care facilities is of growing importance. Primarily, the communication between the County Board of Commissioners and other elected officials from municipalities and metro districts in the county is very important to the economic vitality of the entire county. I think that Eagle County represents one large family with a a lot of common goals. Communication is very important in any family or marriage to remain focused and productive – without it, values can be lost or misconstrued.
Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 607, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail Colorado