County candidates talk growth | VailDaily.com

County candidates talk growth

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Each week, the Vail Daily will publish a Q and A with the four Eagle County commissioner candidates.

Democrat and incumbent Commissioner Peter Runyon will be running against Republican and former Commissioner Dick Gustafson for the upvalley seat. Democrat Jon Stavney will be running against Republican Debbie Buckley for the midvalley seat that’s being vacated by term-limited Arn Menconi. All Eagle County voters will vote for all the seats, regardless of where they live.

The questions will cover local election issues. This week’s question pertains to how the county should manage growth. Data shows that there are almost 18,000 approved but yet-to-be-built units in the county. Meanwhile, the area has a growing need for workforce housing, which the county either is building or has considered building in Gypsum, downtown Edwards and Wolcott.

Q: What is your philosophy on continued growth in the county? Do we have room to grow, and if so, where and how?

This is not a philosophical issue ” this is reality. We are growing at an alarming rate despite this current, temporary slow down. We now have about 29,000 dwelling units.

The latest dwelling analysis shows that we also have an additional 17,700 units that can be built by right. These units were all approved by previous commissioners and town boards.

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This means that without a single new upzoning (allowing a higher use for a property), we will increase the number of houses and condos by 60 percent ” and they are virtually all free market. (Translation: Unaffordable to the average local.)

This isn’t some cheesy scare tactic. This is reality. The cautionary tale is one of increasing traffic, increasing stress on our infrastructure, increasing minimum wage jobs, increasing crime and decreasing quality of life.

It is against this background that I review all requests for upzoning. Every citizen of Eagle County lives here for quality of life. We’ve saved, scrimped, sacrificed, and done without to call Eagle County home. I owe it to them to ask the basic question: Does this project bring an overwhelming benefit to the community? Will our grandchildren thank us for preserving one of the truly special places or curse us for killing the golden goose?

Sixty-five percent of Eagle County’s economy is growth-related, (i.e. builders, developers, suppliers, title companies, mortgage companies, banks, and all those indirect businesses and people who rely on their support to survive). Intelligent growth is essential to our economy.

The commissioners are a series of contradictions. They build more socialized housing, yet demand a “no-growth” policy, limiting growth while expanding and competing with developers ” an oxymoron.

Citizens develop master plans, commissioners ignore them. They wish to limit second-home owners, thus reducing the source of revenue they currently extort from those non-voters.

They create obstructionist regulations, compete with private enterprise, and then complain that “free enterprise” doesn’t work in Eagle County. They complain about shortages of revenue and yet move to destroy the economy.

They say they are concerned with the young family’s ability to own a home, then regulate and tax any potential benefits of ownership. They obstruct private enterprise, then criticize it.

Government should be streamlined by intelligent master-planning and should follow the plan’s guidance by simplifying and fairly applying regulations, cleaning up careless procedures, responding to public input, and bringing trust back to government.

I want to serve, not rule, Eagle County. http://www.electdickgustafson.com

I draw a direct line from our land use decisions to our quality of life. With 85 percent of the lands in Eagle County federally owned, and much of the I-70 corridor already defined, Eagle County has few remaining opportunities for growth that make sense.

As communities, we should have very high expectations for the quality of further development.

I support the Eagle County master plan, which suggests that further development should be concentrated as much as possible on the I-70 corridor near existing town centers, and that our best opportunities for quality development are infill and redevelopment opportunities in and around those population centers.

We need to preserve the transition spaces between our towns. I am very wary of creating a new urban center in Wolcott.

In coming years, there will be pressure to grow up some of the major drainages ” Colorado River, Muddy Creek out of Wolcott along Highway 131, Brush Creek in Eagle, and Gypsum Creek to name a few.

Every individual and every community has a different idea about how much growth is acceptable. As county commissioner I will follow the voice of the people and follow the master plans for individual communities.

I will rebuild trust is by being a representative of the people and listening to how they feel about growth in their communities. In point one of my 10-point plan, I stated that public hearings must be held at a time and place that is convenient for the public. In other words, public hearings that affect your community should be held at a time convenient to most working people and in your community.

For example, before density is tripled at the Riverview apartments in Eagle-Vail, there should be a public hearing in that area of the county at a time when most people are not working.

There should also be a plan for mitigating the increased traffic that will come with the increased density. As county commissioner I will guard our quality of life by making sure road capacity is sufficient to accommodate growth, so growth does not compound the traffic issues that some communities already face.

Visit my Web site at http://www.ElectDebbieBuckley.com for more information.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.