Mayoral candidates address tackling growth in Basalt |

Mayoral candidates address tackling growth in Basalt

The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesJacque Whitsitt, left, and Glenn Rappaport at Tuesday's candidate forum at Basalt Regional Library.

BASALT – Basalt voters will choose a mayor and three Town Council members in the April 3 election. This week, The Aspen Times is asking a series of questions to mayoral candidates Glenn Rappaport and Jacque Whitsitt.

Profiles of the six council candidates and their answers to questions will run March 26-30.

Today’s question is: Jacque, you’ve been known as a slow-growth advocate during your political career yet now you are promoting economic growth in your campaign. Why should voters feel you’ll support growth? Conversely, Glenn, you’ve had a reputation of being more accommodating of growth. How will voters know you can be discerning now, when times are tough?

To say I’ve simply been “accommodating of growth” misses the larger goal I’ve always pursued during my time in public office. For 20 years, my primary focus has been to find opportunities to reduce the number of Basalt residents who must seek work in other communities, and to do what little I could to help create more career choices closer to home.

No one is talking about compromising Basalt’s beauty and small-town character. But if more than 80 percent of the people who live here work elsewhere, why couldn’t we lower that number? This is a “green” strategy, as well as one that builds a strong community.

My tune hasn’t changed with the shifting economic tides: in a 1993 article in the Aspen Daily News about the term “messy vitality” (which has been attributed to me), I laid out my basic philosophy: “We should be doing more in the way of planting seeds that allow people to be creative,” I said.

Today, I believe it’s vital to keep that vision in mind as we seek ways to diversify our economy. I have always tried to be supportive of projects that have a mixed-use, live-work or viable commercial component, and projects that answer real community needs, like the Mid-Valley Medical Center or the location of the library and post office within walking distance to the downtown core.

I have always been discerning in my review of projects as a town councilor, thanks to my fluency with the land use and planning processes. My background in architecture and architectural education allows me to offer productive feedback and suggestions on proposals before the council. As mayor, I would remain discerning, and committed to ensuring that any new projects in Basalt are thoughtfully planned, vital, and suitable for our town. See for more.

In the past, the valley as a whole has pursued and approved growth that has eaten up agricultural lands, degraded our riparian areas and expanded our footprint into winter range and throughout the highway corridor. We are left with hundreds of approvals that are not yet built. These approvals would stimulate construction during the boom years but now fail to provide jobs in a slowed economy.

We are finally chasing job-generating redevelopment, such as the Pan and Fork. This site will be full of education, nonprofit, private and community-based uses. It will be a job creator and a basis for greater vibrancy and more people roaming around downtown. This is how I remember small town life where I grew up. It made me a fan of density and job activity in the core.

The senior living center is another project that will bring diversity, family and depth to Basalt. More “regular” people added to the mix of families and young adults can only make Basalt a more fun and colorful place to hang out. More downtown projects that look and feel like what we have now is a great vision for growing Basalt.

My emphasis will continue to be on careful scrutiny of projects. We have to be a little picky to ensure that new or redevelopment has the feel and tone of our small town. The community has lots of infill potential and our citizens have great ideas for smarter growth. It will be a happy challenge to see what we come up with.

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