SNOWMASS VILLAGE - Candidates for Snowmass Village Town Council responded to questions on a variety of topics during a forum Tuesday night at Town Hall, but much of the conversation revolved around development and local business issues.
Four candidates are vying for two seats on council, and Mayor Bill Boineau is running unopposed to continue in his position. The candidates agreed that economic issues were important but differed in their views on council's role in them.
In response to a question about staying on top of business issues, candidate Chris Jacobson, vice chairman of the town Environmental Advisory Board, said he hopes the town can come up with some new ideas for incentives for small businesses and for new ones to come in.
"One of my initial thoughts when I considered why to run ... was to figure out how we could embrace and communicate with the community entities here and especially the small local businesses here," Jacobson said.
Stan Stokes, owner of Mighty Mouse Management, offered a perspective focused more on visitors than locals.
"We're also hurting because we're not getting the people here to Snowmass," he said. "I really don't think we're going to help the community until we get the people here."
Boineau said he keeps tab on issues regarding commercial activity by going out in the community and talking to businesspeople.
Incumbent Councilwoman Markey Butler said the town has too much commercial capacity compared with residential. She said she talks "with a lot of our people within the community that are business owners" too, and a key issue that they bring up is the amount of the town's sales tax, which is 10.4 percent.
"We've got some tough issues that I see ahead for Town Council to resolve," she said.
Commercial growth also motivated Darryl Grob, former Aspen fire chief, to run for office.
"We've seen boom and bust cycles throughout Snowmass Village in the past, and in my opinion, the next several years are going to see a reversal of the cycle that we've been experiencing since 2008," Grob said.
Grob said the new Westin resort and development in Base Village will increase vitality in the town and thus encourage local business.
"I think cautious cooperation with that kind of enterprise and those kinds of efforts on behalf of commercial activities in Snowmass Village is really going to be one of the key elements that council is going to be involved with over the next several years," Grob said.
The town sales tax came up more than once during the forum. Moderators asked the candidates how the 2.5 percent marketing tax dollars could be used best.
"I'd love to see the marketing board take a percentage of that ... and focus it in on the community," Jacobson said.
Boineau said the council should allow the marketing board to take the reins on much of that work, pointing out that the members have a lot of experience in the field.
"Part of the organizational chart of this group was to say the council needs to have a hands-off approach," he said.
Resident Howard Gross, a member of the Marketing and Group Sales Board, asked the candidates what marketing effort they would cut if the sales tax were reduced. None of the candidates responded with a specific expense they would cut.
"All these things take money," said Boineau, speaking about the many special events that marketing dollars go to. "It's not going to be easy to say what is going to be cut. ... That's going to be a joint discussion."
Stokes agreed that there would need to be more discussion before he could answer the question.
"Is marketing the proper thing to cut?" he also said.
In addition the marketing sales tax, the town of Snowmass Village has a 1 percent sales tax that goes toward general operating expenses.
Butler didn't have an answer, either.
"To that end, I personally am not sure that's the right move to drop it," she said.