Basalt council candidates discuss growth, small-town character
Editor’s note: This is the final day of The Aspen Times Q&A with the candidates in Basalt’s April 7 election for mayor and three council seats.
Aspen Times: The amount of growth is always a hot topic in the valley. Do you think council action is needed to preserve Basalt’s small-town character?
Elyse Hottel: While maintaining Basalt’s small-town character is hugely important to our identity as a community and a desire often referenced in public engagement conversations, I don’t think that its preservation is a question that can be boiled down to growth verses no growth. Small-town character is friendly people, running into your neighbors around town, block parties and events that bring the community together, preserving Basalt’s distinctive history, supporting our schools and maintaining our unique identity, to name a few attributes. To that end, council’s influence could extend to approving design guidelines that define the character of the built environment, preventing uncharacteristic architecture, size or scale as it applies to the site; encouraging local business over chain stores wherever feasible; and investing in gathering spaces, such as the new Basalt River Park will provide, and beautiful streetscapes that represent our community’s vision of itself. With measures like these in place and with the aid of the community, we can continue to maintain our small-town character regardless of the amount of growth.
David Knight: Council should play an active role in preserving our small-town character because that character is what makes Basalt such an attractive place for our residents, visitors and businesses. At the same time some development is needed and that development, such as the Clark’s BCC parcel, could have a positive impact on our small-town character. Additionally, the master plan should serve as a roadmap for council’s decisions related to growth so we can preserve our small-town character while maintaining a vibrant economy.
Jennifer Riffle: Yes, and I will present two perspectives on the small-town character preservation of our awesome “town proud” magical place we call home and work. First is aesthetic and second is community sustainability. How our town looks and functions is the responsibility of the town government. For example, pursuing Willits traffic calming, beautification projects, updating street lights, improving pedestrian experience and parking performance is reasonable and necessary into the future. Within this infrastructure realm, facilitating redevelopment of Clark’s Market and guiding development to stay within the urban boundary is imperative. I am the incumbent council member who introduced the ban on banks and real estate offices on ground floor of the Pan and Fork development as an example of how council action facilitates preserving character. Community sustainability is my second platform item by incentivizing growth within the urban core for density and extracting community serving infrastructure from development.
Small-town character is something all of us are responsible for. From greeting each other at the post office, chatting at the dog park, showing up for the parade to honor the first responders who saved our valued town … this is the true heart and soul of Basalt I love and serve.
Kirk “Dieter” Schindler: Basalt’s small-town appeal is the reason it was easy for my family to put roots down in this community. I believe Town Council should be active in enhancing Basalt’s small-town character by working to improve curb appeal in both Willits and Old Town though street-scaping projects and asking developers to provide more interesting and distinctive architectural presentations. That said, the real character of Basalt comes to life through the shared strength and qualities of its citizens. The community’s response to the Lake Christine Fire in July 2018 put on display the real character of this small town. We saw true collaboration, neighbors helping neighbors, citizens clamoring to volunteer, first responders putting it all on the line to fight back a threat to our town. That is the real character of this small town and yes, it is worth preserving. While Town Council has its part to play, it is up to our community to preserve these qualities. We each own our tone in discourse, we own collaboration and listening to differing ideas, we all own the responsibility to preserve our small-town character and shape the future Basalt for the benefit of all that come after us.
Glenn Drummond: Yes, preserving the small-town character is going to require council action. Council must ensure that new development proposals are vetted properly and provide real community benefits. This will help to preserve the small-town character that many people love about Basalt. Council’s job is to work with town staff to find solutions and manage growth in a way that preserves these attributes.
Tiffany Haddad: We absolutely need to be involved in preserving Basalt’s character but we also need to be involved in its growth because, as we know, growth is inevitable. We can do both by working together as a council but also listening to all citizens on how we want our town to grow and how we want that growth to develop for our future and our children’s futures.