Eagle candidate forum draws a large crowd
Unlike many town board meetings, people far outnumbered empty chairs at last week’s candidate forum at Eagle Town Hall.
Town residents got a chance to listen to nine candidates express their views about economic development, growth and other issues over the course of the two-hour meeting. The candidates are running to replace three board members – Paul Gregg, Bruce Hasbrouck and Tom Ehrenberg – all of whom are leaving due to term limits.
Mayor Roxie Deane is also term-limited, but current board member Jon Stavney is the only candidate seeking that position. The new town board will appoint a member to fill Stavney’s seat.
An attentive crowd of more than 40 people attended the forum, which was sponsored by the Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce. After opening statements, Dan Smith, a political science instructor at Colorado Mountain College, asked the candidates for more specific answers.
“You’ve all said the town needs to manage growth and keep a small town atmosphere, but how, specifically, would you do that?” Smith asked. The answers quickly turned to maintaining the town’s economic viability. Most candidates questioned the need for a “big box” type development at Red Mountain Ranch and instead focused on the need to take care of local businesses first.
“The big box is an excellent opportunity for increasing sales tax,” candidate Kraige Kinney said. “But is the community ready for the impacts? I want to know if citizens are willing to make those trade-offs.”
Kinney also proposed for generating more sales tax through bringing in multi-day sports tournaments. Candidate Ed Woodland said he would urge the board to make sure the Chambers Avenue area got its share of attention in any look at economic development.
“The bottom line is development is going to happen and we’re not going to stop it,” candidate Bob Magdzuik said. “The dilemma is balancing that with what we have.”
Open space was another issue that got candidates talking.
After Stavney held up a proposed travel management plan for the town’s open space, particularly the property around the edge of Eagle Ranch, several candidates and residents said – some loudly – they hadn’t seen the document, which led to numerous comments about access to the public lands beyond the town’s open space.
Access has been a contentious issue since the town last year closed its open space to all motorized access until a travel management plan is complete. All the candidates favored at least some degree of motorized use through the town’s property.
“Open space is for everybody; it ought to be open to everybody,” candidate Tommy Helms said.
“We don’t need another agency telling us what to do,” Magdzuik said, referring to the town’s enforcement of open space regulations. Access to public lands should be through as many points as possible, he said.
Candidate Bob Egan also favored motorized access to public lands, but with limits. “We need a recreation master plan,” he said, adding that a committee needs to inventory access points, survey users and others to determine how best to use and protect the land bordering the town.
While also favoring some motorized access through the town’s property, Woodland said, “It’s too early to pre-judge the current open space program … but we do need to address the concerns of citizens.”
The open space issue also brought up the side topic of communicating with residents. Candidates offered ideas ranging from publishing meeting agendas in local newspapers to hiring a communications officer.
Over cookies and punch after the session, longtime town resident George McCollum said he was impressed by the apparent dedication of all the candidates. “They were pretty consistent in that they all want to improve the town, to look ahead,” he said. “They all seemed open to listening to the public.”
Resident Barb Hogoboom said between the forum and the published profiles of the candidates, she felt informed enough to make a decision at the polls Tuesday. “The way they articulated things was different than what you read in the paper,” she said. “It was good to hear what they had to say.”