Hatfield gives Pitco new look
The balance of power among Pitkin County’s commissioners is likely to shift on a variety of policy and administrative issues once Jack Hatfield is seated next year, but it’s hard to pin down exactly how.
Hatfield, the commissioner-elect from District 3, differs from retiring Commissioner Leslie Lamont both philosophically and in experience.
He is less supportive of public housing, more fervent about protecting the environment, less friendly to developers, and much more skeptical about rail as a solution to the valley’s transportation woes. And where Lamont gained her experience as a planner working for the city and the county, Hatfield gained his from the Snowmass Village and Pitkin County planning commissions and the Snowmass Village Town Council.
“I’m a stronger advocate for housing than he is. Jack didn’t support Burlingame, for instance,” said Lamont. “But he’s hardcore on protecting the environment, especially with the 1041 review process, which is good.”
That’s not to say Lamont doesn’t look closely at each and every proposal for affordable housing, or any of the other issues the board sees.
Nor is it to say Hatfield is against housing. After Aspen voters approved Burlingame earlier this year, he dropped his opposition to the project and volunteered to help with the planning process. Hatfield is probably going to find himself compromising with developers at times over the environment, just like his predecessor. But with his presence, some of the votes on big proposals and initiatives could come out a little differently starting next year.
Hatfield, who was elected Tuesday with a 342-vote majority in a hotly contested race against John Young, will probably find himself voting with Commissioner Mick Ireland more often than not when developers ask permission for a variance from the land use code. Several times in the last year, Ireland has been the lone vote for denying such variances.
He’ll also probably wind up in line with Commissioners Patti Clapper and Shellie Harper on affordable housing. Both commissioners have expressed skepticism about some of the affordable housing projects proposed in recent years, while Lamont, Ireland and Dorothea Farris have been unwavering in their support for housing.
On transportation, Hatfield’s a rail skeptic like Clapper. But unlike Clapper, he voted for the roundabout and was a strong supporter of the RTA proposal.
Young, a longtime resident of the valley, nearly beat the two-term town councilman from Snowmass Village by taking a vocal stance in favor of employee housing. But Hatfield garnered endorsements from Lamont and Ireland, even though it was clear his election could change the outcome on some big issues.
“It’s hard to get Jack to cave in on anything. He’s going to do what he thinks is right – no matter what I or anyone else thinks,” Ireland said.
Hatfield would like to see a review of the urban growth boundaries and the placement of housing in an ever-growing swath of the county.
He also describes himself as a fiscal conservative. As a Snowmass Village town councilman, he has voted against annual budgets he thought weren’t tight enough. What that means for the future of the county and its budget remains unclear, however, even to Hatfield. “Right now I’m just studying. The next year is going to be a learning year for me,” he said.
“Jack brings a lot of experience. He’ll be able to hit the job running,” said Lamont. “And he’s dedicated. He’ll view it as a full-time job, which it is.”
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