Basalt mayoral candidates offer differences |

Basalt mayoral candidates offer differences

Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesBasalt mayoral contenders Jacque Whitsitt and Glenn Rappaport during a candidate forum last week.

BASALT – Basalt voters won’t have to depend during the mayoral campaign on what candidates Jacque Whitsitt and Glenn Rappaport say to help form their opinions. Both candidates have extensive records in office to scrutinize.

They are urging voters to look at the differences.

“Those who have been watching know that my opponent’s and my voting records have been in disagreement at times – especially regarding how growth should occur,” Whitsitt said.

“My opponent and I come from quite different backgrounds and perspectives,” Rappaport said.

The Aspen Times looked at major decisions they’ve been involved in over the past five years to get a sense of their similarities and differences.

One major difference is over the handling of the application for a Whole Foods Market, which was a work in progress for several years. The former developer of the Willits Town Center project sought an additional 85,000 square feet of residential space in fall 2007 to go with a 44,000-square-foot supermarket and commercial space. Rappaport was on the council at the time and voted on Sept. 25, 2007, to support the extra residential space.

“I am a supporter of it. I’ve been a supporter all along,” he said. Willits Town Center is an appropriate place for high density, he said.

The application stalled when debated by a divided council. Ultimately the developer split the request for the supermarket from the request for the extra residential square footage. A smaller market of 25,000 square feet is now being constructed. The extra residences haven’t resurfaced.

Whitsitt wasn’t on the council in fall 2007, but as a community activist she spoke against the extra residential square footage. When she ran for council in spring 2008, she addressed the issue.

“I would have voted ‘no’ on the residential piece of the Willits application unless the project was smaller, price-deed restricted and included a believable traffic mitigation and public infrastructure plan,” she wrote in response to a questionnaire in The Aspen Times.

Whitsitt got elected that year and went with the council majority in crafting a growth-management quota system for the town. The recession had hit the valley hard by April 2009, but the majority of council members felt growth management must be implemented for the next boom time. They noted that hundreds of approved but unbuilt residences are on the books in Basalt.

Whitsitt was among a council majority that approved growth management allowing approvals of no more than 32 free-market residences per year.

“It’s just a real big change from business as usual,” she said in April 2009. The measure was approved unanimously by the board.

Rappaport wasn’t on the board at the time of that vote. However, as a councilman in fall 2007, he expressed support for exploring a growth-management process in which projects had to compete against one another to earn approvals.

“I definitely support us making tiny steps in that direction,” he said in October 2007.

The candidates’ records on affordable housing are in contrast. Whitsitt was part of a council that toughened affordable-housing requirements in spring 2009. The board voted to require developers of major residential projects to provide 35 percent of their square footage as affordable housing. Major commercial projects had to provide affordable housing for 25 percent of new employees.

Rappaport wasn’t on the council that toughened the affordable-housing rules, but in a June 2011 work session, he said the requirement on commercial developers was too onerous and should be eliminated.

“Why penalize people before they even get out of their car?” Rappaport asked. “I get people ripping me on the street on this stuff.”

Five months later, the council altered the affordable-housing requirements on commercial properties. They granted exemptions from affordable housing for commercial spaces as large as 2,500 square feet. Larger projects still must provide housing for 25 percent of employees.

When asked last week to outline his position on affordable housing, Rappaport wrote in an email that people from all walks of life should be able to live in town but that the government had to be “nimble” and adjust rules as necessary.

“The need for affordable housing today, with housing prices cut in half, isn’t as critical as it once was,” Rappaport wrote. “Our principal problem today is jobs, and our rules as a town should reflect that. Small-town government should be nimble and able to adapt quickly to changing economic circumstance.”

For the past two years, Whitsitt and Rappaport have served together – as they did for most of 1996, all of 1997 and four months of 1998. In the past two years they have voted similarly on a number of town matters, including the following:

• They voted to kill a proposed noise ordinance that would have prohibited activities such as mowing lawns after 7 p.m. The proposal was defeated by the full board.

• They both voted to back off a proposed ordinance to ban short-term rentals of homes in town for less than 30 days. The council referred the issue to a committee, which is due to make recommendations later this year.

• They both initially supported an ordinance to place a 20-cent fee on plastic and paper grocery bags. They both later voted to rescind that ordinance and replace it with a proposal to ban plastic bags and charge the fee on paper bags. That proposal will go before voters April 3 for a decision.

The candidates also have differed on issues in the past two years, such as:

• Rappaport favored refunding half of an anticipated building fee for the former developer of Willits Town Center. Whitsitt was opposed. The developer wanted the town to refund half of the anticipated fee of $146,000 so the funds could be used for construction mitigation at the site. The request was rejected by the full council, and the town ultimately collected $177,813 for the building fee.

• Rappaport was at odds with several council members in June 2010 over the review of the Roaring Fork Conservancy’s proposed River Center. Rappaport didn’t want the council to review the design of the project as long as the building met the town code.

“To say that a building is too big or too little, or weighs too much or doesn’t weigh enough, or is blue or yellow or green – I don’t want to be that guy,” Rappaport said.

The council majority, including Whitsitt, asked for architectural tweaks. The project was later approved with changes.

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