Housing committee sparks contention among Eagle County commissioner candidates
EAGLE — Eagle County commissioners are putting a committee where consensus should be, say two candidates in the November election.
The commissioners approved a nine-member housing advisory committee to oversee money that could be raised by a countywide housing tax, if Eagle County voters approve ballot question 1A on Nov. 8. The 0.3 percent sales tax is projected to generate $5.4 million a year.
The committee was formed last week, before voters said whether they’re willing to tax themselves for it.
Folly or focus
Michael Dunahay is running against incumbent Jill Ryan, and was campaigning in Dotsero when he heard about the committee. He reacted with some frustration and more than a little sarcasm.
“That’s just what we need, another committee, another consortium to have another meeting to talk about housing instead of doing something about it,” Dunahay said.
Dunahay pointed out that he created a multimilliondollar company building single-family homes across the United States.
Ryan says the steering committee will help focus efforts to address the county’s ongoing affordable housing issue.
“If 1A does not pass, it’s a way we can work together on housing issues,” Ryan said.
Partnership and politics
Incumbent Kathy Chandler-Henry faces local business owner Rick Beveridge. They also came down on opposite sides of the committee issue.
“I think this is a good solution for making sure all areas in the county are part of decisions about affordable housing, for having input across geographies and for creating collaborative public/private partnerships,” Chandler-Henry said.
Beveridge dismissed the committee and the timing as electioneering.
“It’s political, and I’m not.”
“The two incumbents on the board running for re-election are three weeks before the election, and they need to look like they’re doing something,” Beveridge said.
Beveridge reiterated that he has already developed affordable housing in Eagle County and that no other candidate has.
Gypsum has 1,900 housing units already approved, Beveridge said.
Chandler-Henry said she is regularly asked how they can make sure the money is being spent appropriately.
“I think this advisory committee provides the guarantees people are seeking – it will have both oversight and planning responsibilities and will be appointed by each jurisdiction in the town.
The housing advisory committee will be comprised of representatives from each of Eagle County’s seven incorporated towns — Avon, Basalt, Eagle, Gypsum, Minturn, Red Cliff and Vail — plus one member from both the Eagle River Valley and the Roaring Fork Valleys — nine members total.
It will function like Eco Transit advisory committee and the open space advisory committee, which has been operating since 1996.
In the resolution, the commissioners said the committee members should include a mix of individuals with experience in the housing industry, different business interests throughout the community and with large employers.
Members do not need to be employed by a town, the county, or any other government, said Jill Klosterman, Eagle County’s housing director.
“The intent is to have a committee made up of experts that can hopefully help the housing authority prioritize and alleviate the housing shortage,” Klosterman said.
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It’s campaign season in Basalt. The three candidates for mayor met Monday night in the first forum leading to the April 7 election.