SNOWMASS VILLAGE - With Nov. 6 quickly approaching, candidates have one more week to make their case for a seat on the Snowmass Village Town Council.
Four candidates are vying for two seats on the council, and Mayor Bill Boineau is running unopposed to continue in his position. At last week's forum hosted by the Sun in Town Hall, candidates discussed a host of topics, but much of the conversation revolved around development and local business activity.
Owner of Mighty Mouse property management company, Stan Stokes emphasized that he was running because he wanted to give back to the community. Stokes has lived in Snowmass Village for 30 years, opening his own business and raising two kids here.
"With my kids being out of school, now is the time I'd really like to give back in Snowmass," he said.
When asked how he would stay abreast of issues related to commercial activity, Stokes said he is in touch with local businesspeople.
"Every business has really been hurting since 2008," he said. "I really don't think we're going to help the community until we get the people here."
On development, Stokes said the mall needs a "shot in the arm" and that he hopes the Westin helps with that. He pointed out that the Snowmass Center also needs some work and that there are still a lot of questions about what Related Colorado will bring before the council.
"I would like to see something in the works sooner than later," he said. "What is happening now isn't working."
Candidate Chris Jacobson, vice chairman of the town Environmental Advisory Board, thought focusing on locals was more important for encouraging commercial growth. He hopes the town can come up with incentives for small and new local businesses.
"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.
In response to a question about how marketing tax dollars could best be utilized, Jacobson again had a locally focused response.
"I'd love to see the marketing board take a percentage of that ... and focus it in on the community," Jacobson said.
Jacobson said the council should seek input from all participants, including community residents and businesspeople, on development decisions, particularly in Base Village.
"It's not necessary for the town to predispose or prescribe what should happen but to wait for the developer in a free-market agenda to come up with their position," Jacobson said. "That being said, I think that we've seen a lot of examples in which the market needs the assistance of government to structure itself so that it can protect the environment, protect its participants and protect the inhabitants."
Commercial growth also motivated Darryl Grob, former Aspen fire chief, to run for office. Grob said the new Westin resort and development in Base Village will increase vitality in the town and thus encourage local business.
"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. "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 thinks the role of the council as development proceeds will be to ensure that the community is accommodated, including maintaining infrastructure such as the bus system, bike paths, recreation center and roads.
"Success does not proceed from a government bureau," he said.
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.
When asked by an audience member what she would want to cut from the marketing fund, she said she didn't have a "magic answer to that."
"To that end, I personally am not sure that's the right move to drop it," she said.
Butler said the Planning Commission will play a critical role in development in the three commercial nodes of the village.
"The role of Town Council then is to make the final decisions and the final approval process," she said. "From that, I'd love to see something happen over in West Village and also over here at the Snowmass Center, but I don't think the developer's going to take on all three at one time."
Boineau said he keeps tabs on issues regarding commercial activity by going out in the community and talking to businesspeople.
When asked the question about the marketing fund, Boineau said he couldn't answer that without more discussion.
"All these things take money," Boineau said, 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."
On development, Boineau said the council's role can be tricky.
"The Town Council's role on these things is to sit, look at this and decide: Where do we want to go in the next two years? Five years? Ten years?" he said. "We've got to do this in conjunction with smart development. I think it works with the developers we have here. ... I think it's going to be some very exciting times to try to sit there and not just be the lifeguard that people are thinking that you should be but to try to foster this to be a fantastic resort that people are going to want to come into for years."
Boineau said the sale of Base Village back to Related was an inspiration to run for mayor again. Boineau has sat in the mayor's seat since 2008 and served on the Town Council from 1994 to 1998 and again from 2004 to 2008.
"I knew that we'd really be spending the next couple years spending some time looking at this development, ... trying to understand some of the areas where we may have made some mistakes in the past and how to move forward," he said.