Democrats talk housing, growth |

Democrats talk housing, growth

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Workforce housing and controlling future development are among the top issues local Democrats said they want to see their party’s county commissioner candidates address.

“I’m interested in affordable housing,” said Bellyache Ridge resident Yvonne Rupp. “I have a daughter here and her husband who can’t afford to buy a house. They would have to move all the way down to Rifle for affordable housing.”

County commissioner candidates Jon Stavney, who is running against Republican Debbie Buckley for the midvalley seat, and incumbent Peter Runyon, who is running against Republican Dick Gustafson for the upvalley seat, said workforce housing are top priorities.

Runyon pointed to Stratton Flats, a Gypsum workforce housing project in which the county is a partner, as an example of the kind of work he wants to get done in the area. Housing workers is a problem he said he feels he has helped bring attention to as a commissioner.

“Before I put the question of where are the workers going to live, no one was really thinking about it,” Runyon said.

Stavney said that while local Republican candidates point to the free market to solve housing problems, he thinks it will take a more proactive approach.

“I really think it’s a shame that our working families aren’t able to live in the communities they serve,” Stavney said. “I think there’s a lot of room for finding creative solutions for workforce housing.”

Eagle County is a community where the free market is not enough, Runyon said.

“I’ve lived here since 1970, and the free market has not stepped up to provide housing,” he said.

Avon resident Patrick Espy agreed that housing is a top priority, and that growth and development needs to be steered in the right direction.

“Affordable housing is the No. 1 issue in my mind,” he said. “Even as a professional architect, it’s difficult to own a home here. Architects and owners have a responsibility to approve development with concern for the county.”

Runyon said he thinks “uncontrolled, random” growth in the county has helped contribute to that problem. That is something he has worked to change during his term, he said.

“The county used to be pretty much a rubber stamp for developers,” Runyon said. “What that’s led to is an imbalance between local and second homes.”

Some Democrats also wanted to know what the candidates’ thought about developing Wolcott, especially as a workforce housing community.

Runyon said he thinks the Wolcott valley floor is an ideal place for housing because it is situated near the interstate and is flat and open.

“If I had my druthers, I would leave it as a sheep farm, but we have an extraordinary housing need,” he said.

However, Stavney said he does not want to develop Wolcott for the same reasons.

“It’s tempting, but I actually think it’s the last place we should look,” he said. “Yes, it’s wide open, flat and green, but that’s looking at it from a developer’s point of view.”

Wolcott is a good green space to separate communities, and he would rather see infill development in areas like Eagle-Vail’s business area, Stavney said.

Espy said he would also like to see more services for the Hispanic community ” while he does not think people should come to the country illegally, he also thinks those immigrants are essential to the local workforce.

“I’d like to see the commissioners do their part to remove racist language from our public discourse,” he said.

He said he would support services such as a clinic that would serve immigrants and other uninsured residents, such as the public health center the county wants to build.

While not all Democrats felt the same way, the candidates both agreed immigrants are essential to the local economy.

“We absolutely need these people,” said Runyon. “The economy in Eagle County would just collapse without them.”

Stavney agreed, but said he wants to debunk the idea that all social services go to serve illegal immigrants.

“I know many people are working citizens who need these services,” he said.

The candidates also said they wanted to get away from ideological debates with local Republicans and focus on practical solutions.

Runyon said that while former commissioner, Republican Tom Stone, and term-limited Democrat Arn Menconi, were often on far ends of the political spectrum, he is interested in compromising.

Local Republicans are running on a very negative campaign, he said.

“For both (Stavney) and I, it’s very easy for our opponents to say, ‘They’re doing this wrong, well, lets throw them out,'” Runyon said.

Instead, he wants to talk about actual solutions to the county’s problems, he said.

Stavney said that while Buckley and Gustafson have advocated a very minimalist government position, he thinks government is a way to “come together and express our values.”

“Eagle County really needs a leader for all of Eagle County ” not an ideologue,” Stavney said. “My opponent is a wolf in sheep’s clothing in that regards,”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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