Vail Town Council candidate forum tackles familiar topics, and some new ones, too | VailDaily.com

Vail Town Council candidate forum tackles familiar topics, and some new ones, too

VAIL — All 10 Vail Town Council candidates gathered at Donovan Pavilion the evening of Thursday, Oct. 19, to give the public a chance to hear their positions on topics including housing, transit and the town's relationship with Vail Resorts.

The forum was presented by the Vail Chamber & Business Association and sponsored by the Vail Board of Realtors. The entire forum can be seen below, or online at http://www.highfivemedia.org. Given the size of the field, candidates answered a few questions each over the course of the two-hour meeting.

Candidates talked about their qualifications and experience and why they're seeking council seats.

Incumbent Jenn Bruno said she hopes to keep Vail "special" for the next generation.

Travis Coggin, who moved to Vail in 1987 as a third-grader, is a member of that generation, and said it's time for that generation to get involved in town politics.

That sentiment was echoed by candidates Bart Longworth, Brian Rodine and Taylor Strickland. At 24, Strickland is the youngest of the candidates.

Edward Padilla is retired and said he believes he can make a contribution in strategic thinking based on his long experience in business.

Rodney Johnson has been in Vail for more than 35 years and told the audience he's at a point in his life where he has time to contribute to his adopted home town.

Mark Gordon served on the council between 2005 and 2009.

Greg Moffet, who has served two stints on the council, told the audience he first got involved because he wanted to ensure his daughters could grow up in a "real town with real families," adding he still believes in ensuring that Vail remains a community.

He and Gordon both called for re-creating something similar to the "Vail Tomorrow" community project, which sought residents' opinions about the town's present and future.

Mayor Dave Chapin, seeking a second term, said he believes that virtually every issue faced by the town will ultimately protect and strengthen Vail's brand among resorts.

Top town issues

Housing has always been a top issue in town. The chronic shortage of workforce housing has become particularly acute in the past few years, spurred, in part, by the rise of rent-by-owner websites.

Longworth said he'd favor tighter restrictions on short-term rentals and said the town should develop a system that encourages owners to keep their units in the long-term rental pool.

Strickland said fees on short-term rentals could be a partial solution in raising money to finance the town's deed-restriction purchase program.

Candidates also talked about the town's relationship with Vail Resorts. Padilla said Vail should try to find a way to have a seat on Vail Resorts' corporate board, saying it's essential for the town to have a voice in the resort company's future strategies.

Gordon said the town and resort company usually work well together. When the two entities do have different opinions, it's essential for town officials "to fight as hard as we can to preserve our interests. … We need to make sure guests have (a) seamless experience, no matter how divergent our views are."

In addition to the prepared questions — which weren't provided in advance to the candidates — the group also fielded a few questions from the audience.

Responding to a question about balancing the town's need for housing with the necessity of preserving the environment, Bruno said in the case of a parcel in East Vail recently rezoned to allow some workforce housing, it's essential to rely on studies from the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies.

"We need to trust the system and find that balance," Bruno said.

Seeking, finding balance

Finding balance was also the focus of one audience-submitted question about at what point Vail might be too crowded.

Padilla said the town needs to maintain ways to control its peak crowds.

"When you lose the ability to slow the train down, or put it on a different track, that's when it's too crowded," he said.

Longworth said the town is getting close to that "too busy" stage at times, adding that businesses need employees to provide great service. Without that, he said, Vail runs the danger of becoming a "sleepy mountain town."

And employees need to be able to live in Vail, or at least nearby.

Rodine, who has lost his lease on three rentals in his eight years in town, said housing is the primary reason he's running.

"It's not just me; it's friends of mine," he said.

As candidates made their final pitches to the audience, Gordon noted that "Vail is impossible; we shouldn't exist." The reason, he said, is that people in town set "impossible goals and achieve them. … And we succeed when we listen."

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com or @scottnmiller.

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Who’s running?

Voters on Tuesday, Nov. 7, will select four candidates for Vail Town Council seats.

• Jenn Bruno (incumbent)

• Dave Chapin (incumbent)

• Travis Coggin

• Mark Gordon

• Rodney Johnson

• Bart Longworth

• Greg Moffet (incumbent)

• Edward Padilla

• Brian Rodine

• Taylor Strickland