Peter Runyon – candidate for Eagle County BOCC, Dist. 1
In District 1 which includes much of the upper valley but extends to portions of Edwards incumbent Commissioner Michael Gallagher of Minturn is not running for re-election due to health problems.go to : http://www.prunyon.comfor more details
by Tamara MillerDaily Staff WriterQ. Is affordable housing as pressing an issue now as it was 10 years ago? As the county continues to grow, do you think the county’s housing policies should change, and if so, how? Is there enough housing priced affordably for Eagle County’s middle-class families? Is there enough housing priced affordably for Eagle County’s low-income families?A. Simple supply-and-demand economics and geographic realities dictate that the affordable housing issue will be with us for the foreseeable future. We are in a brief window in our history as a county where the constant shortage in this housing market segment has eased. However, the Colorado state demographer assured us that this is indeed a temporary situation and has, in fact, projected that in just 21 years 36,000 workers per day will have to commute into Eagle County. That is a number that catches my attention.We must take advantage of this brief window to formulate alternative solutions. I have reservations concerning deed-restricted properties. Counter-intuitively, these programs tend to dig the homeowners into an equity hole over time, forever condemning them to publicly subsidized housing. A possible alternative would be for the county to form partnerships, not with the developer, but with the employees themselves as an equity investor. Another possibility might be for the county to offer an escrow program that places a percentage of the rents it receives from individual employees to be used towards an eventual down payment of a home.Q. As county commissioner, how would you balance the desire for open space with finding land for housing? What areas of the county do you see fit for housing? What areas would be better left as open space?A. People are shocked to learn that the county currently has land zoned to bring the number of dwelling units from the current 23,000 houses up to 47,000 units. So, the question isn’t finding land for housing, rather it is finding land for open space.This is why I’m interested in exploring the land-use mechanism known as Transfer of Development Rights, or TDRs. Simply, this is a tool such that when a developer wants permission to up-zone a piece of property, he has to buy those rights from the pool of existing zoned areas from elsewhere in the County. These areas are then down-zoned. This allows planners to concentrate growth into key areas and prevent sprawl.There are a number of areas in the county appropriate for housing, ranging from the hillside homes of the well-to-do to the valley floor townhomes of those of modest means.There are several key areas we need to preserve; those actually in our communities such as the Eaton parcel in Edwards which will become an amenity. We also need to preserve parcels that help separate and define our communities. Finally, we need to preserve areas that embody our western heritage.Q. Would the Board of County Commissioners operate more democratically if there were five board members, rather than three? Would you consider turning Eagle County into a home-rule county to accomplish this goal? What are the obstacles and benefits of such a move?A. I absolutely want Eagle County to adopt a home rule charter: It is one of the central issues that brought me to this race. There are three obstacles. The first is that we need two county commissioners to agree to get the process started. The second is that we need to do the hard work of drafting the charter. Finally, the charter has to be passed by the voters.Now the benefits:1) Five heads are always better than three.2) Each commissioner can be elected by just the citizens of their district and not “at large” as we do now. This would be of particular interest to the 8,000 people living in the Roaring Fork Valley. Basalt and El Jebel have become forgotten stepchildren.3) We can remove party affiliation from the candidates as they do in many towns and cities. The issues that divide us nationally for the most part don’t apply locally.4) Under Colorado’s “sunshine laws” no two commissioners can have a conversation about county business unless they notify the public since they form a quorum. Allowing commissioners the opportunity for casual conversations increases communication and efficiency while preserving the benefits of the sunshine laws.Q. Does Edwards take up more than its fair share of the county’s resources and funds? Should the county return more of the sales tax revenue collected from towns back to the towns? Should Edwards incorporate?A. First of all I believe that, while this “Edwards issue” is real, much of the concern arises out of what is essentially a temporary situation because of all of the county money recently spent on Berry Creek in Edwards. Since I sit on the capitol projects committee, I understand that in the near future the county will be investing in other community projects around the county such as the Gypsum rec center and the West Vail fire station.The more global issue is the extraordinary number of different incorporated towns and special districts for a county with a population of only 45,000 souls. The inefficiencies that stem from the duplication of services are ridiculous. We must ask ourselves whether it makes sense to add yet another bureaucratic entity in Edwards. Rather should we look to consolidation? Consolidation will only come with improved communication. The county should take the initial lead and assign staff, including commissioners, to act as liaisons between the county commissioners and all our towns, special districts, and larger homeowner associations.Q. What one thing would you do to ensure the future viability of our water supply?A. We have a looming crisis in water supply. While the romantic side of us wants the rivers and streams to remain wild, the practical side understands that we must increase our water storage to meet demand. Currently the highest profile project under consideration is the Wolcott reservoir. As your commissioner I will fight every step of the way to insure that Eagle County gets the best possible deal. We need to make sure that we get our fair share of the water, we need to guarantee that the lake remains full for the entire summer as a recreational amenity, and we need to guarantee that minimum and maximum stream flows are met insuring the health of our rivers and streams.Additionally, as your commissioner, I will work as a lobbyist for the county at the state capitol to reform our archaic water laws. Agriculture currently uses 85 percent of all of Colorado’s water, yet there are no incentives in the laws to encourage conservation. Shockingly, under the “use it or lose it ” doctrine waste is encouraged. A re-examination of these laws is long overdue.Q. A significant percentage of the middle-class wage jobs in this county are connected to the local construction industry. These jobs include not only construction workers and contractors, but architects and engineers, just to mention a few. Are you concerned about what would happen to these jobs as the county becomes completely built out? What should Eagle County do to diversify its economy?A. I’m not sure that the assumption of a “build out” is accurate. The recent proposal of a 250-foot high building in Avon proves that there will always be entrepreneurs willing to push the envelope.Currently, the construction industries comprise almost 30 percent of all of our jobs. Certainly, with time, they will become a smaller percentage of our work force; however, they will always be with us. Rebuilding, remodeling and teardowns will continue to be an important part of our economy, as exemplified by Vail’s billion-dollar make over.However, it is important for us to diversify our economic mix. Many have said that they want their children to be able to work here after they have finished their education but that they can’t find good paying jobs. The good news is that Eagle County is in an excellent position to capitalize on the growing national trend to telecommute. People and businesses can now more than ever locate where they want to live rather than where they have to live. Our improved airport, our location along the I-70 corridor, our Internet trunk line access and, naturally, our extraordinary environment are all assets we need to use to attract a diversity of businesses.Q. What recreation needs do you feel are still not being met in Eagle County? Is it time to consolidate the county’s recreation districts?A. For the past 40 years, Eagle County has been one of the leaders in recreation, however there is always room for improvement. There are two areas that should be expanded and improved. First, we should reach out to include more of our economically disadvantaged children, particularly in our team sports. Often the price of equipment and transportation is simply too great a financial burden. The second area for improvement would be to offer programs for our citizens who aren’t so athletically inclined. Should our children be driven to the isolation of computer games because they feel excluded due to their lack of athletic prowess? Recreation is about community, not simply athletics.Intuitively, consolidation is a worthy goal. The desired results of any consolidation should always be efficiency, better service, elimination of duplicate services and finally, cost savings. Upholding the continuity of the three equal arms of our recreational mandate is vital. Specifically, we must continue to 1) provide excellent programs and facilities for our local population, adults as well as children 2) provide world-class facilities to our visitors and 3) support special events that have been such a boon to our economy, such as the recent soccer match.Q. What is the most significant issue facing the county today?A. Far and away the most significant issue facing the county is planning for future growth. The future is a funny thing. It is an ever-receding horizon that has a way of becoming the past before you know it. Our state demographer (a man who has the reputation of underestimating by as much as 35 percent) has assured us that population will double to about 87,000 by the year 2025. That’s fine, we can probably manage that number of new neighbors. But, what about the year 2035? Will the population grow to 130,000? Is this the legacy we pass on to future generations? If we don’t sit down now and take a hard look at where we are going, we may regret decisions that may be impossible to undo.This valley is one of the world’s special places. Tourists, our economic lifeblood, come here to recreate precisely because we are different from their home. They have a Banana Republic, a Bennigan’s, a Home Depot and a Red Lobster at their local mall. We have to ask ourselves, “Will they still come with such enthusiasm after we have homogenized ourselves into suburbia?” Will we kill the proverbial golden goose?Tamara Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail Colorado
Peter Runyon, who moved to Vail in 1970 and worked for 10 years as Vail Associates staff photographer, now owns two postcard and souvenir companies. He also serves on the advisory board for Colorado Mountain College and he is a member of the Vail Eagle Valley chapter of Rotary International. He has been married to his wife, Beth, for six years.
Peter Runyonwants stricter control of growthBy Tamara MillerVail Daily staff writerIt may be hard to believe, but Peter Runyon considers himself an introvert.For most of his life, Runyon has been more comfortable working behind a camera lens than in front of it. He’s done things on his own terms. Ten years of his adult life were devoted to sailing all over the road, with stops at home every six months or so. Lately, the Democratic candidate for the upvalley county commissioner seat has been a little louder. He spoke in favor of dedicating at least part of the Eaton Ranch – where B&B Excavating operates – to open space. At a recent county commission hearing, Runyon opposed a controversial project in Edwards’ Homestead neighborhood. Contrary to popular thinking, Runyon is neither outspoken nor an anti-development fanatic, he said. But he is concerned about Eagle County’s future.”I just think we can do better,” he said. A fish out of waterRunyon grew up on the East Coast but most of his life, he felt out of place, he said. He despised the New York aristocracy and how a birthright or prestigious school carried so much weight in society, he said. He went to St. Paul’s Academy – a fact that would greatly impress people in his native land. He’s glad it wouldn’t impress anyone here.”Now I just say I went to high school,” he said.After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Runyon headed west. His destination was Aspen and he hoped to start his adult life there. He stopped in Vail along the way. He was struck by the pleasant way people in the West dealt with each other. While he enjoyed his stop in Vail, he was determined not to steer off course. He continued to Aspen. “I walked around Aspen and there was a different feel of the people there,” Runyon said. “I felt as thought I had to go back to Vail.”He did and at last, Runyon felt at peace.”It was as if I had come home,” he said. “At last, I felt as if I fit in.”He immediately began looking for a job. Runyon’s major in college was history but his passion was for photography. After speaking to a few local photographers, he went to Vail Associates to interview for a position there. After a nearly two-month wait, he got the call: He got the job. “It was great,” he said. “The company was very supportive.”Runyon only got one raise in the 10 years he was with Vail Associates, but he was allowed to use the photos he shot for projects on the side. Company officials realized that having pictures of Vail published on magazine covers could only be a good thing. Runyon got plenty of covers on national and regional ski magazines. Photography was in its heyday in the ’70s and ’80s. Nowadays the compensation Runyon would receive for cover is about the same he received then, he said.His favorite photo, however, has nothing to do with skiing. It’s a cover he shot for Cruising World magazine that shows the sun setting over a sailboat in the ocean: Runyon designed and made the sailboat. After leaving Vail Associates, Runyon set to sea for nearly a decade. He would return home to Vail every six months or so, but for that period of time Runyon was a rambling man. When he came home in 1990, he stayed home for good. Joining the community fabricRunyon now owns two postcard and souvenir companies, Runyon Postcards, Inc. and Mountain Sights, Inc., which do business throughout the state. The postcards feature many of his photographs, as well as pictures belonging to colleagues and well-known photographer John Fielder. At a Halloween party in 1997, Runyon met his wife, Beth. He went as a sailor, clad fully in uniform with a harness. Beth was dressed as a construction worker.”So I kept clipping my harness to her carabiner,” he said. They’ve been hooked together ever since, he said. As he has gotten older, the shy East Coaster who felt out of place is now quite at ease. With this confidence, Runyon has started getting more involved in the community. He serves on the advisory board for Colorado Mountain College and is a member of the Vail/Eagle Valley chapter of Rotary International. As a 34-year resident of the valley, Runyon has witnessed plenty of changes. He’s not happy with all of them. “Back in the ’70s and ’80s, this valley was sort of schizophrenic,” he said. “The upvalley had the elite skiers and the downvalley had the longtime ranchers. They didn’t understand each other.”There needs to be a balance between the two and while the ski resorts are vital part of Eagle County’s economic health, Runyon said that ranching heritage needs to be preserved.”That’s part of the tourist experience,” he said. The idea of transferring development rights – which Runyon explained would allow developers to essentially buy zoning rights from another developer – could be one way to control growth. Runyon also agrees with Buz Reynolds, the independent candidate for the District 2 county commissioner seat, that it’s time for Eagle County to be run by five, not three, commissioners.He also would like there to be better communication between towns and the county and suggests hiring a liaison on the county’s payroll to do just that. To better control growth, Runyon wants to create a bipartisan committee that will establish guidelines to more strictly control growth in the county. Those guidelines should be voted on by county residents, he said. “This issue is too important to be left completely to the discretion of the county commissioners,” he said. Runyon already has seen some result of his community involvement. About 72 acres of the Eaton Ranch parcel is now under a one-year, $12 million purchase option aimed at preserving it as open space. The Vail Valley Foundation set up the deal with a $25,000 down payment. The organization hopes to raise the $12 million required to buy the land.”I, in my own small way, helped to get that to happen,” he said. Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or email@example.com.Vail Daily