Aspen City Council interviews applicants
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
ASPEN – Several of the applicants for the Aspen City Council post being vacated by Dwayne Romero said Thursday they intend to seek election to the seat in May.
Stating their election intentions was the most direct response a number of the applicants offered during two rounds of interviews in front of the council, sans Romero.
Adam Frisch, Cathy Markle and Howie Mallory were interviewed in round one; Marcia Goshorn, Cliff Weiss and Jag Pagnucco were grilled the second round. The council intends to interview Ruth Kruger and Patti Kay-Clapper on Monday and make the appointment later next week, said Mayor Mick Ireland. Dan Kitchen, who had applied for the seat, has withdrawn his candidacy.
Weiss and Goshorn said they intend to run for the seat in May, while Markle and Mallory said they won’t seek election. Pagnucco said he’ll only seek election if he is appointed to fill the rest of Romero’s term; Frisch said he’ll probably run.
Most of the candidates interviewed Thursday said adoption of the updated Aspen Area Community Plan, the drafting of which has been ongoing for more than two years, should be a priority for the council, and Mallory suggested the city push to adopt the plan before the spring election.
Most of the candidates offered vague responses when Ireland asked if the council should wield the AACP as a regulatory document, using it to deny a development application. He asked applicants if the council was justified in using provisions of the community plan to reject a proposal for the Wienerstube property, but received few yes or no responses, even when he pressed for an answer.
Goshorn finally said the plan should offer the council that authority, but suggested the wording of the updated AACP wasn’t sufficient, while Markle landed in the opposite camp. “I don’t know if I can say yes,” she said. “I think the hammer has to fall in zoning and land use.”
Though it wasn’t posed as a question, Pagnucco took the opportunity to voice his views on the planned Aspen Art Museum project that will go on the Wienerstube site instead of the mixed-use project that was originally proposed.
“I dread seeing that facility in the middle of this town,” he said, criticizing the architecture. Of the two projects, Pagnucco said he’d prefer the original proposal.
Weiss said he’d opt for the art museum – “but make it reasonable,” he said. Goshorn, too, agreed the museum is the better choice, though she said she doesn’t care for the architectural style of the project, either.
The second group was also quizzed on what should happen at the Given Institute property. Goshorn said she wants the property preserved but suggested the facility itself is “just an ugly building.” She said she hopes a local group working with area nonprofits to come up with a purchase proposal comes to fruition.
Weiss didn’t offer an opinion on what should happen, but predicted a compromise of some sort. “You’re going to give up something to get something,” he said.
Pagnucco said he’d choose open space at the Given campus over keeping the existing building for some new use.
Though worker housing wasn’t specifically the topic of a question to the first group, the conversation turned to whether the city should build phase two of Burlingame Ranch. Both Mallory and Frisch agreed the city shouldn’t proceed unless it has buyers who not only qualify for deed-restricted housing, but can qualify for a loan in the tight lending market.
Markle said she believes community support for publicly subsidized housing has waned and called for reduced taxpayer subsidies in its construction.
Ireland asked how the community will continue to provide the level of service expected in a world-class resort given stagnant or dropping numbers of working residents, according to the latest census data.
Markle mentioned the traffic jam at the entrance to Aspen as an impediment to moving a workforce from elsewhere in the valley, and Weiss called for a bigger and better bus system.
Mallory called for diversifying Aspen’s economic engine, which he said is too dependent on the resort-service industry, while Frisch said the economy is more diversified than residents may realize. Goshorn suggested encouraging new businesses in town that create a year-round economy. Mallory and Markle also advocated more light-industrial opportunities.
Pagnucco said Aspen is enough of a draw that workers will always come to fill the jobs.
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