Growth already emerges as big issue in Basalt election | AspenTimes.com

Growth already emerges as big issue in Basalt election

The Basalt Town Council races have already attracted one candidate who wants strict limits on growth, another who contended the town’s already too tough and a third who placed himself firmly in the middle.

And all that happened on just the first day that candidates could take out nomination petitions for the April 6 election.

Current council members Anne Freedman and Leroy Duroux took out petitions to run for mayor, as both previously announced they would. Current Mayor Rick Stevens will be forced to leave office because of term limits.

Taking out petitions to run for the three open council seats were former Basalt town employee Mark Kittle and former Aspen Daily News reporter Bernie Grauer.

Kittle, a fourth-generation resident of the Basalt area, said he wants to give voters an alternative to existing policies.

“The big reason I’m running is I’d like to see a little different direction,” he said. “I’d like to see some responsible growth in town.”

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Kittle served as the town’s chief building inspector for six years, so he’s familiar with the growth issues in Basalt. He said he wasn’t trying to be critical of the current council, but felt it takes too long for projects to be reviewed. The Willits project, which includes more than 400 residences and a commercial core, should be further along in construction, Kittle said. The review of the project dragged on for years.

Kittle said Basalt doesn’t need “a lot” of growth, but it needs a more diversified economy. “If City Market burned down tomorrow, we’d lose all our income,” he said.

Kittle, who is now the chief building official in Snowmass Village, said he believes he can provide a voice for the remaining valley natives and old-timers in the Basalt area. He indicated that he and Duroux, another valley native, share views on many issues.

“We’re running on the same ticket, so to speak,” he said.

Duroux has served on the council for 9 1/2 years and will square off against Freedman, a six-year veteran of the council. Duroux must give up his council seat because of term limits. Freedman is in the middle of her final term. She can retain the council seat if she loses the mayoral election.

In addition to Duroux’s departure, Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt is facing term limits and Councilman Jon Fox-Rubin doesn’t want to seek a second four-year term.

In the mayor’s race, Freedman has already said she will hinge her campaign on slow growth. She accused Duroux earlier this month of being “a little too friendly to development in this community.”

Duroux responded that Freedman would be “absolutely wrong” to portray him as pro-growth. However, he wouldn’t answer her specific charges about his record. Duroux said the time to debate would come later in the campaign.

Grauer, who worked for the Glenwood Post and the Daily News for six years after moving to the Roaring Fork Valley, defined himself as somewhere between Kittle and Freedman on growth issues.

He said the town government should thoroughly review projects before making decisions with huge implications. “On the other hand, I don’t agree with Anne, who is virtually for no growth,” he said.

Grauer said he is for “slow growth. I’m not for no growth.”

Grauer isn’t taking sides in the mayoral race at this time. “I’m not running as part of a ticket with anyone or against anyone,” he said. He may make an endorsement after he hears more from the candidates.

Candidates have until Friday, March 5, to circulate nomination petitions.

The last day to register to vote is Monday, March 8.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]

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