Five Snowmass council candidates face off in squirm night | AspenTimes.com
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Five Snowmass council candidates face off in squirm night

The five candidates for Snowmass town council speak during Squirm night in Snowmass Town Hall on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Five candidates. Three group questions. Two, two-minute statements. One hour.

That was the format of the “Squirm Night/Candidate Forum” for the Snowmass Town Council candidates as they went head-to-head in the Town Hall council chambers Thursday night.

Similar to the forum for the two mayor candidates just before, the five Snowmass locals competing for the two open Town Council seats discussed what they feel are the top two major issues facing Snowmass elected officials; how they plan to address the ongoing need for affordable housing and what specific types/housing projects should be prioritized; and what key principles should guide council’s review of local development projects, including how they feel they can contribute to the council review process.

From emphasizing the need for carefully planned and placed development in a town with little available space left, to advocating for more child care and private-public partnerships on affordable housing, Town Council candidates Matthew Owens, Gray Warr, Alyssa Shenk, Tom Fridstein and Jeff Kremer covered a host of topics and issues relevant to the Snowmass Village community.

Shenk, Fridstein and Kremer played up their years of experience serving the community through town government, with Shenk having served the past six years on Town Council, Fridstein currently holding the chair position on the town’s Planning Commission, which he’s served on for five years, and Kremer with roughly four years of experience on the town’s Parks, Open Space, Trails and Recreation (POSTR) board.

On the flip side, Owens and Warr weighed on their positions as fresh, working-local voices, bringing different perspectives to the table with Owens owning his own property management company and having worked for more than a decade for Aspen Skiing Co. as the housing operations manager, and Warr currently working as the adult alpine program coordinator for the Snowmass Ski School and for the town in guest services.

For Warr, he feels finding the right balance of development is important for keeping Snowmass a relevant and vibrant place to live and visit. He said creating more affordable housing and preserving outdoor recreation opportunities with lots of community input is a part of this.

“I decided to run for Town Council because there are a lot of projects that I would like to see completed. I feel that the completion of these projects are required for Snowmass to remain relevant,” Warr said. “I feel it should be done with authenticity, sustainability and above all community feedback.”

Owens expressed similar thoughts, though for him promoting and seeing through the development of more affordable housing is the absolute No. 1 issue he feels elected officials should be focused on, as many of the town’s other issues and its overall sustainability tie back to it.

“Snowmass Village has long struggled with issues around housing, and working in housing for over 15 years has provided me a broad depth of knowledge to understand and approach the unique housing challenges we face,” Owens said.

“… At the end of the day, you can’t run the town if you don’t have a workforce and you’re not going to have a workforce if you don’t have housing. It just needs to be priority number one.”

Fridstein echoed many of Owens’ thoughts, acknowledging that because the town has limited space left to develop that it’s important to plan and study how more development, like affordable housing, best fits in physically and best meets the needs of the local community — and said that he is best positioned to help do this as a member of Town Council as a career architect.

“I spent 45 years working with some of the biggest developers in the world and some very important projects, even small projects. So I understand both the development criteria and the architectural aspects and can be a very good reviewer of these projects,” Fridstein said. “I will push to get what’s right for our community in the proper balance of growth while maintaining this beautiful character that makes us who we are.”

While all of the Town Council candidates recognized the need for Snowmass elected officials to help guide sustainable development and look to create more affordable housing for local employees, Kremer and Shenk also focused on the need for the town to complete the Town Park entryway or redesign project.

Kremer, who spent his career in behavioral health and who admitted he has some bias toward this issue after serving on and acting as the first chair of the POSTR Board, said he feels the redesign project will benefit everyone who lives in Snowmass and give people a better first impression of the village.

“I’m a strong proponent of the Town Park redesign, of continuing to develop trails as we can and develop recreational amenities because that’s what Snowmass Village is all about,” Kremer said. “… Overall as a councilperson, I want to stress quality of life and enhancing quality of life for those that live here in Snowmass Village. I want to elevate the notion of community character and what it means to be guided by that notion.”

Shenk expressed similar thoughts. But similar to other candidates, for Shenk, she said it’s not just about Town Park or housing or development. It’s about serving the community, giving locals a voice, and utilizing experience to help see these big town projects through and address ongoing community issues — which Shenk said she feels she is well positioned to do as a lawyer specializing in mediation, a mom, a volunteer and a longtime council member.

“We’ve gotten a lot done in my six years since I’ve been on council and there’s a lot of big projects to come. And in order to see those to fruition we need experience, we need people that have the knowledge to see these projects through,” Shenk said.

“I see what the needs are in the community. I have friends struggling with child care, loss of employment, housing. I see what those issues are. And I’m proud of what I’ve done to represent the different facets of community, whether they’re visitors, workers, part-time residents, and I just need more time to see some of these things through to completion.”

To watch the full council and mayoral “Squirm Night/Candidate Forum” events, visit The Aspen Times, the Aspen Daily News and/or Grassroots TV websites.

mvincent@aspentimes.com


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