Eagle council candidates talk housing, sustainability, supporting local business

Eight of the nine candidates participate in a forum held by the chamber of commerce Thursday

Eagle Town Council candidates participate in a forum Thursday night in Eagle. From left: Weston Arbogast, Shawn Bruckman, Jamie Woodworth Foral, Weston Gleiss, Judson Haims, Sarah Parrish, Nick Sunday and Geoff Grimmer. Janet Bartnik was unable to attend.
Kelli Duncan/Vail Daily

Eagle Town Council candidates participated in a public forum Thursday evening in which they answered questions on housing, small business support, sustainability and more to a room full of local voters.

The event’s moderator kicked off the evening with a quote from the late Colin Powell before proceeding to ask questions tailored to each candidate’s background and priorities.

“We don’t have to be divided. We can find common ground,” moderator Kevin Brubeck quoted Powell as saying. Brubeck is Eagle’s Economic Vitality Committee chair and served on the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission, as well as the Town Board before it became a Town Council.

Eight of the nine candidates running for four open seats on the Town Council came out for Thursday’s event with incumbent candidate Janet Bartnik unable to attend due to a family emergency.

Vying for the three two-year seats up this election are Shawn Bruckman, Sarah Parrish, Judson Haims, Jamie Woodworth Foral, Weston Arbogast, Nick Sunday and Bartnik.

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The race for the Town Council’s sole four-year term will be a showdown between incumbent Geoff Grimmer and newcomer Weston Gleiss.

The forum was hosted by the Eagle Chamber of Commerce. Each candidate answered three rounds of questions.

Talking development

Arbogast, an engineer with an interest in water use and sustainability, was the first to answer a question on the need for more housing in Eagle, saying the town should support more diverse options.

“By having more development, of course, we’re also going to give more deed-restricted properties in there, which will allow more, larger family homes to be available in that lower price range,” Arbogast said.

Realtor and long-time local Parrish said there is a “valleywide housing shortage” that should be addressed by diversifying options, supporting multimodal transportation for commuters and giving approved residential developments the support they need to move forward quickly.

Parrish broke from the group in saying she is “not sure if affordable housing is a realistic expectation” given the current price of building materials in the region. Instead, the town should focus on supporting local workers in other ways, like providing more deed-restricted housing.

A recurring theme in Thursday’s forum was how the future Town Council should balance the need for residential development with the need for more commercial development to produce more sales tax revenue for capital improvements.

The town must be strategic in using the small amount of commercially viable lands it has left to grow its sales tax revenue, so it can make improvements without having to raise taxes for residents, Parrish said.

Eagle Town Council candidate Weston Arbogast answers a question at a candidate forum on Thursday. At right is is candidate Shawn Bruckman.
Kelli Duncan/Vail Daily

Some recently approved developments have not aligned with Eagle’s land use code when it comes to providing adequate parking and maintaining the flow of traffic, Bruckman said. This will be increasingly important as the town continues to grow larger and more populous, she said.

“If we have rules, we should follow them; and if we don’t like the rules, we should change them,” Bruckman said.

Candidates agreed that the Town Council must pursue new development while also maintaining the character and “small-town feel” that draws people to Eagle in the first place.

Sunday referred to this as “keeping Eagle weird,” saying that small, seemingly silly traditions are what makes Eagle a unique, tight-knit community.

In a written statement sent Friday afternoon, Bartnik said that, if reelected, she would make decisions with the town’s “long-term viability” in mind.

“I’d like to see us work with staff and the community to develop a plan to achieve the Net Zero by 2030 prudently, consider how we might shore up the Town’s financial future, explore how we work with partners for efficient and effective service delivery to residents, consider options to improve housing and child care market pressures and continue to strengthen a culture of community engagement across town initiatives,” she said in the statement.

Getting sustainability done

Another topic discussed by multiple candidates was environmental sustainability. Bruckman was the first to be asked about this, given her position as director of sustainability and compost operations manager at Vail Honeywagon.

Bruckman called for a “multifaceted approach” to working towards Eagle’s recently adopted goal of having net-zero carbon emissions by 2030.

If elected, Bruckman said she would support more “carbon-neutral building” and more diverse transit options accessible to people of all income levels.

Another cost-effective way to work toward this goal is maintaining the health of agricultural areas and open spaces that pull carbon out of the atmosphere and back into the soil through a process called “carbon sequestration,” she said.

Many carbon emission reduction efforts currently being explored have a high potential for return on investment and can save the town money over time, Grimmer said.

Making common-sense changes to be a more sustainable as a town is an effort that should include people of all backgrounds and ideologies, he said, rejecting the idea of sustainability as a politically divisive issue.

“Don’t push people; just create a vision that pulls people,” Grimmer said.

From left, Eagle Town Council candidates Judson Haims, Sarah Parrish and Nick Sunday participate in a candidate forum at the Eagle Town Hall building on Thursday.
Kelli Duncan/Vail Daily

Arbogast advocated for educating local homeowners on how to make their houses more energy and water efficient and providing economic incentives for sustainable upgrades like high-efficiency water meters.

Listening to locals

After two rounds of questions by the moderator, a representative of the Eagle Chamber of Commerce asked each candidate the same two questions: How can the Town Council and the chamber work more closely together, and how should the Town Council support local businesses?

The Town Council should appoint a liaison to facilitate smoother communication between the council and the Chamber of Commerce, Sunday said. This would help council members be more attuned to the needs of small businesses like his, Alpine Vending & Video Inc.

The town should hold more public events that highlight local businesses like the ARTwalk, Parrish said. Grimmer took this one step further, suggested the town create a walkable “art district” on Second Street like the one in Crested Butte.

Haims and Woodworth Foral spoke about the importance of listening to the community and allowing business owners and other residents to inform the town’s decisions around what is best for them.

Gleiss suggested taking notes from other Western Slope towns that have been capitalizing on their access to public land and open spaces to support new business. This model would work well for Eagle, he said.

The future Town Council should prioritize public engagement, be “proactive instead of reactive” and provide town staff with the resources they need to be successful, Woodworth Foral said. After all, town employees are the ones that make it all happen, she said.

The town should consider offering economic incentives for new child care centers to come to Eagle as the lack of local, affordable child care has been debilitating for many parents, Arbogast said.

Gleiss advocated for investing in more sports and recreational opportunities for the town’s youth. He said he was inspired by his daughter to run for Town Council and make sure she has access to things he didn’t have growing up.

At the end of the evening, Brubeck, the event’s moderator, urged everyone to vote in the election on Nov. 2 and get involved in their local government by going to Town Council meetings or watching them online.

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