Basalt candidates Q&A

Jacque Whitsitt

Basalt has two candidates running for mayor and six candidates running for three council seats in the April 5 election. Ballots have been mailed to voters and must be mailed back to Town Hall or delivered by April 5.

The Aspen Times quizzed the candidates on five top issues. Their answers will run today through Friday. A short profile of each candidate ran previously. The order that the candidates’ answers run will rotate.

Mayoral race

Aspen Times: Rick, some people have labeled you pro-growth, and Jacque, some people have labeled you anti-growth. Is your label accurate or inaccurate? Please cite examples from your voting record.

Jacque Whitsitt: Although my opponent and I are both strong supporters of community, we differ greatly on how growth should be approached. I am very pragmatic when it comes to large-scale expansion. I believe we should look carefully at potential negative impacts and clearly identify how projects meet our needs. I opposed a tax subsidy and 90,000 square feet at Willits Town Center because there was no analysis of consequences. We should look at projects that directly address the community good: truly affordable housing, recreation, child care, parks and trails.

Rick Stevens: Inaccurate — I supported the urban growth boundary, supported essential services staying in our core, etc. I do not keep track of my voting record. I believe the results of our efforts as a government over the last two decades have been largely successful.

Council race

Aspen Times: Where do you fall on the growth spectrum — pro-growth or anti-growth? Please cite examples from your past, either as a council member or activist, to support your position.

Rob Leavitt: I am neither pro-growth nor anti-growth. Development in our valley is going to happen whether we want it or not. But the only way for Basalt to retain its small-town charm is to remain a small town. What we need on council are people who can study each proposal and create the best projects for our community. We need to put the brakes on urban sprawl and encourage smart and selective growth. I voted against the (tax-increment financing/public-investment fund) for Willits when it became apparent that there was no public appetite for the incentive. However, I voted in favor of the additional square footage because of the benefits provided to the community.

Jennifer Riffle: I define myself as “smart growth” to change the terms of the development debate away from the traditional growth/no-growth question to how/where new development should be accommodated. I value long-range, regional considerations of sustainability over a short-term focus. I advocate concentrated growth in compact and mixed-use development and walkable, bicycle-friendly urban centers to avoid sprawl. I spoke against a (public-investment fund) in Willits to share $10 million in benefits to development, counterproposing equitably distributing the costs and benefits to downtown. To preserve and enhance natural resources, I support the whitewater park acquiring permanent water rights of the Roaring Fork River, adding economically vibrant recreational destination to Basalt.

Herschel Ross: The town of Basalt has a kick-ass land-use code that allows us to choose only those applications that would really benefit the town and advance toward the goal of a wonderful place for working people to live, work, and even own a business. All votes should be measured by that standard. It also gives us the tools to reject any application that doesn’t fit for us or to negotiate with a developer for a better application. Good examples of what I have supported are the Rocky Mountain Institute building, the affordable-housing application on the foundation near Stubbies, the senior living application by the high school, the River Conservancy building, and trying to get the Tree Farm project subject to our codes and rules.

Auden Schendler: No candidate falls into either category. Most support compact density in the town core that includes added height. Most want some level of appropriate development at the Pan and Fork, which makes tons of sense: A park benefits from amenities, and the town core is where you put buildings. I urge greater clarity. I have heard the term “slow growth.” What does that mean? What if you slowly sprawled down the valley? If we could snap our fingers and have a compact, mixed use, three-story development at the Clark’s parcel, wouldn’t we take that? I have a long history of consistently opposing sprawl and supporting infill.

Katie Schwoerer: It seems the expression du jour is “smart growth,” which is somewhat nebulous. To me, smart growth starts with a comprehensive investigation into the externalities of a proposed project. What are the added communitywide impacts of approved (but unbuilt) projects? Is a project providing solutions to community needs (attainable housing, day care) or creating additional stresses on our capacities? Smart growth occurs within urban growth boundaries. It does not cause sprawl. A good example of smart growth is the conceptual redevelopment of the (former) Clark’s Market parcel. An example of “foolish” growth that was recently proposed is the Tree Farm development. I was active in the community movement demanding denial of that project.

Leroy Duroux: I would have to say I am pro-people. People have families. Families make communities. The communities of Willits, Southside, Roaring Fork Club and Wilds, all of which I was involved in approving, allowed many fine people and their families to become valuable members of the Basalt community. Each project must be evaluated and discussed to assure they will become positive influence on the vitality of Basalt for the future.


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