Community character remains a hot topic in Snowmass council debate
Love for Snowmass bonds four council hopefuls
The Snowmass Town Council Squirm Night debate highlighted many of the differences between the four candidates. Incumbent Councilman Thomas Goode relied on his many years of experience on the Town Council, while challengers Matthew Dube, Britta Gustafson and Susan Marolt drew on their knowledge of Snowmass community. The four are running for two open seats.
Kaya Williams from Aspen Public Radio, Aspen Daily News Editor Megan Tackett and The Aspen Times Editor Don Rogers moderated the 50-minute debate, which can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZHYXePWbbw&t=1906s.
They started the second session, following the mayoral forum, with a question for Marolt and Goode about how money should be spent when revenues come in higher than expected. Marolt got the first chance to answer.
“I think the best thing for the town to do in that situation is to sort of save it for a rainy day, build up your reserves, so that, then, when things aren’t quite so rosy, you’ve got some cushion there,” she said.
Marolt, a small-business owner and certified public accountant, said her experience as a tax accountant and on the Aspen Board of Education prepared her well to serve on the Town Council. She has lived in Snowmass for 30 years.
Goode agreed with Marolt and said the town of Snowmass has a good financial reserve, but there are a lot of capital projects on the books at the moment.
“How far do we go? I think that depends on the community in regards to what we want to spend our money on,” he said. “How much money does the town want to spend on certain projects is an issue for me at this point.”
He has lived in Snowmass Village since 1973. He has worked as a teacher, football coach and ski instructor, as well as runs a plumbing and heating company, in addition to being on the council, of course.
Marolt took the opportunity rebut, drawing on her experience as a CPA.
“When you ask a tax accountant a question, the answer is usually ‘It depends.’ I agree with Tom (Goode). It kind of depends on what you have in your budget, what you have earmarked as goals for the council. You look at all of that, and you listen to the community, and you decide what you do with extra funds,” she said.
Gustafson and Goode had different views on the concept of “just big enough,” a town slogan. While Gustafson’s campaign is run on the idea, Goode has said he does not agree with the phrase.
“What is just big enough? Does that mean just big enough above the wood bridge or does that mean the whole town, the municipality? I’m not a fan of just big enough, not by any means. We could look across the street at what’s going on in our life in this town, and it’s not just big enough anymore. We’ve gone from rather rural to urban,” Goode said.
Gustafson countered by saying the emphasis on just big enough matters, but it needs to be more than words.
“I think the original vision was to have these nodes of development, and, yes, they’ve gotten big, but they’ve always been part of the plan. I think it’s more than just an aspiration. I think it’s a belief system in this community,” she said.
Goode rebutted, maintaining that past the Wood Bridge Condos is as far as development can go, as there is not much land left to develop.
Similarly to the mayoral debate, Marolt and Gustafson were asked to define the community character of Snowmass Village.
Marolt began by talking about the hiking, biking and skiing right outside everyone’s doorstep, which is what makes the town special.
“To me, I think that piece — the locals living here and working here and locally-owned businesses — are the pieces we have to work so hard to preserve, and I think when we talk about growth, it doesn’t mean we say, ‘No growth.’ It means we direct that growth, so we preserve those things we really value,” she said.
Gustafson said the heart of community character is a deep desire to participate, whether that’s engaging with each other on community conversations or participating in outdoor recreational activities.
Gustafson, who was born and raised in Snowmass, has remained connected to the Snowmass Village Community through her column in the Snowmass Sun. She is also the communications director for the Farm Collaborative and creative director for Edible Aspen magazine.
“I think that one of the roots to that for us, here, is that we really love this lifestyle. There’s a deep sentiment amongst everyone that loving this lifestyle is what brings us together. It’s the mountains, yes, first, and then falling in love with all the things we care about as we grow as a community,” she said.
In his closing statement, Dubé touched on the importance of the community character of Snowmass.
“It all comes back to knowing our essence. Essence is a concept related to character, it’s related to community. We have to strengthen our neighborhoods, our schools, institutions and employers to make a whole complete community,” he said.
Dube has been in Snowmass since 2015 and manages commercial real estate outside of the Roaring Fork Valley with his wife. He serves on the Snowmass Village Planning Commission, is a member of the Snowmass Village Rotary Club, volunteers on the board of the HOA and on the Caring Connection team at Snowmass Chapel.
One topic all candidates could agree on was what they wanted to keep the same in Snowmass Village forever: the bikeability of town, the community character and the relationships formed in the village.
“I agree with everybody, in regards to the cycling from Matt, Britta’s comment and Susan’s especially. This is just a wonderful community, and I love being here and living here,” Goode said.
To reach Audrey Ryan, email her at email@example.com.
A group of local snowboarders and skateboarders hit the big screen on Saturday at the Wheeler Opera House showcasing their street riding capabilities.