Mayoral hopefuls cover spectrum on growth
Basalt’s three mayoral candidates avoided fuzzy “growth is inevitable” platitudes in a debate Thursday night and clearly defined their positions on the ever-present issue.
As might have been expected, Steve Solomon seized the strongest growth-control stance while Glenn Rappaport outlined a position friendlier to development. Incumbent Rick Stevens stayed on middle ground.
Solomon, a current Basalt Town Council member, answered affirmatively when asked if he was a “growth-control incumbent.”
Rappaport, a former councilman, said his position on growth hasn’t changed since he won election to the board in 1994.
“A no-growth solution is just a growth-displacement solution,” he said.
He said he would rather work with developers to come up with projects that add some desirable quality to the town and provide jobs.
Stevens said he has been a longtime proponent of “smart growth.”
“I’m not a no-growth incumbent. I’m not a growth incumbent,” Stevens said. “If you don’t grow, you die – and I don’t think anybody wants that.”
The forum was attended by about 50 people. KDNK Public Radio broadcast it live. GrassRoots TV will rebroadcast the event before the April 4 election.
In addition to selecting a mayor, Basalt voters will also choose among seven candidates for four council or trustee positions.
Rappaport told the audience he “came out of early retirement” in politics because he is “very troubled about some things that are going on right now.”
Rappaport first earned election as a trustee in 1994, then won re-election four years later. He quit two months into the term, in part due to frustration over finding himself in a minority on a new board.
But his concern about Basalt’s economy energized his new bid, he said. Rappaport said he is worried that new affordable housing requirements will discourage development.
His priority is to accommodate growth that will bring job opportunities to Basalt, he said. Currently, 75 percent of Basalt residents aren’t working in town, according to Rappaport. He wants to reduce that to 50 percent.
Solomon insisted that the town’s affordable housing policies, which he pushed to implement, aren’t snuffing development. Three of four developers have been willing to comply so far, he said.
Commercial real estate developers are now required to provide affordable housing for 20 percent of the employees their projects generate.
“It’s been a very successful program for us and I support it 100 percent,” said Solomon.
Solomon said the town government has come up with ways to effectively assess the effects of new development as part of a master-plan process. The master plan, or blueprint for growth, was completed last year after two years of work.
Stevens also disputed Rappaport’s claim that housing requirements were deterring development. He noted that exemptions are available for developers who can show the requirements are too onerous.
Stevens also noted that 98 businesses have opened in Basalt in recent years. He wants to continue to court businesses in the valley to relocate in Basalt.
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