Commissioner candidates discuss development regulations
EAGLE COUNTY — Today, we pose the following question to the candidates for the Eagle County Board of Commissioners: Is it time to roll back any regulations and “public good” attachments to development proposals that might be unreasonable in harder economic times?
Jeanne McQueeney, Democrat, District 3
As I’ve walked neighborhoods in this campaign, I have heard some concerns regarding requirements of affordable housing units as a requirement for certain development projects. I do believe that we need to assure opportunities for affordable housing in our community. Currently, a large portion of our economy is based on the success of the service industry. The service industry must be able to attract and retain employees. Our community benefits when the people that work hard here are able to live here in housing they can afford.
I do believe that the “public good” attachments to development proposals should be reviewed periodically, especially in relation to the availability and inventory of affordable housing for purchase and rent.
The regulations had not been updated since 2009, so it was time to adjust to changes in the market. The changes made to the regulations in 2014 have actually reduced some of the requirements for affordable housing while still providing a payment in lieu option for developers. This payment which obviously adds to the cost of development is in line with fees assessed in neighboring counties.
Eagle County has a well thought out criteria to prioritize and approve development proposals. The advisory group allows a broader perspective on decision making. We should continue to honor the thoughtful input of the advisory group and be assured all voices are being heard. The process is also flexible enough to take input and make changes. We can review these regulations and see if they helped achieve the goal of producing more affordable housing.
Dick Mayne, Republican, District 3
It depends on what your goal is with regulations such as the housing guidelines. If your goal is to drive the housing out of county areas and into the towns, then the housing guidelines are a perfect vehicle for doing this as their associated cost makes it much more difficult to try to do development in unincorporated areas.
The result of forcing development into the towns where the infrastructure such as water, sewer, gas and roads already exist is that land abutting or near towns, that is currently in the county, will be annexed into the towns. This can be a good thing as it tends to concentrate the development rather than creating sprawl. It also eliminates the need to deal with county criteria that is potentially more difficult to deal with than that of some of the towns.
Regardless of the economy, development regulations should always make sense, be reasonable, easy to understand and consistent across the board. Development regulations should always serve the purpose of providing a means to protect the environment, our resources and to ensure that new growth pays its own way and does not burden existing residents.
When elected, I want to hear from the residents about their environmental and housing needs, concerns and the building community’s thoughts on the implementation of the regulations in order to come up with a fair and equitable set of guidelines. I want to make sure our regulations continue to preserve and protect the valuable resources we have, as well as the quality of life that brought us here.
I want to make sure that our grandchildren and their children get to experience the wonderful quality of life that I have come to know living in this county.
Kathy Chandler-Henry, Democrat, District 2
It’s starting to look like the “harder economic times” may be behind us. Real estate sales are up, sales tax receipts look good especially in the eastern end of the county, and phones are ringing at contractors’ offices. The latest unemployment figures for Eagle County show a low 4.1 percent, a figure we haven’t seen since 2008. And housing — well, if you need a place to rent it’s tough going.
We used the economic downtime at the county to fine-tune EcoBuild regulations and affordable housing guidelines. The EcoBuild fund is having some amazing successes through a public-private partnership spearheaded by Walking Mountains with support from Eagle County. We’ve managed to leverage federal energy funds to create jobs for inspectors and builders, while saving energy and making homes warmer and cheaper to operate. We have an EcoBuild committee made up of private sector members, and outcomes to date show this program to be a success. Affordable housing guidelines were used to review the Wolcott plan, and these guidelines will likely come into play in upcoming development proposals.
It’s a balancing act, encouraging responsible development while building communities where the workforce we need can afford to live. We talk a lot about economic vitality, and it comes down to our workforce. To attract and keep businesses that support good jobs, we have to have strong housing and education infrastructure. All that is a long way of saying that our “public good” requirements are about to be put to the test. They may need revisions and we can do that — they’re guidelines rather than regulations. But we’re on the right track to building community strength and resiliency, environmental stewardship and economic vitality.
Courtney Holm, Republican, District 2
The Board of Commissioners should continually aspire to streamline the most efficient government that is responsive to the needs of those it serves. That means not only making wise economic decisions and always planning for the unforeseeable issues that may arise, but also reviewing policies and regulations regularly to either improve or promote the interests of the local residents and deliver the service better and at the peak efficiency.
Each “public good” attachment to development proposals needs to be reviewed to determine the actual impact on the potential economic health of the county including positive and negative effects in the short term as well as long-term future. This requires listening to the input of those affected in the implementation of the attachment for the public good from all perspectives: The development, the workers, costs and the overall impact on the people.
The county should always be looking toward the future and immediate impact of any contingent application of development proposals, and prioritizing the desired outcomes to meet the changing needs of the county. If economic health is in a declining state and modification of the attachments would serve to improve the lives of our people with minimizing any negative impacts on the long term goals, then it is something to be considered. Attachments that may be very appropriate 10 years ago may need review and revamping in our current climate.
I think that you would need to look at each specific attachment to evaluate if it was implemented to be applied as the rule or as the exception and analyze the inherent impacts of that attachment.
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