Mayors tackle tough issues |

Mayors tackle tough issues

Carolyn Sackariason
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado
Mike Braaten, governmental affairs and energy coordinator for Rifle, Aspen Mayor Mick Ire­land, Glenwood Springs Mayor Bruce Christensen, state Senate candidate Ken Brenner (standing), New Castle Mayor Frank Breslin, Parachute Mayor Roy McClung, Basalt Mayor Leroy Duroux and Snowmass Village Mayor Doug "Merc" Mercatoris talk Fri­day at Snowmass Village Town Hall. (Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times)

SNOWMASS VILLAGE ” Five mayors from the region met Friday to discuss solutions to their problems, which are becoming increasingly similar.

At the new Snowmass Village Town Hall, Mayor Doug Mercatoris hosted his colleagues from Parachute, New Castle, Glenwood Springs, Basalt, Rifle and Aspen.

Dubbed the Mountain Mayors’ Meeting, the group meets every six weeks or so to come up with ways to help each other’s communities.

Topics discussed included regional housing, smart growth, transportation, and the oil and gas industry.

Mayors west of Aspen and Snowmass are feeling the pinch of not having enough workforce housing. That problem is not new to the upvalley communities, which have been grappling with how to house their workers for more than a decade.

“In a lot of ways, we are one community and people are getting pushed further West,” said Glenwood Springs Mayor Bruce Christensen, adding that an increasing number of homes are being purchased as investment properties. “We’re getting out-of-state corporations buying these homes.”

Christensen said he also is seeing accessory dwelling units that are attached to the approvals of new homes and meant as affordable housing being rented out as vacation properties for a day or a week.

In Aspen and Snowmass, those kinds of properties remain vacant because second-home owners don’t want or need employees living on their property.

The valley’s wealthy residents rely upon service companies to maintain their properties, which creates a bevy of jobs but no housing. The communities can’t keep pace with job growth related to second homes when it comes to workforce housing.

“We never imagined what the second homes were going to create,” Mercatoris said. “We allowed these houses to be built without them paying into our housing structure.”

Basalt Mayor Leroy Duroux said he is seeing the same trend downvalley.

“In Basalt, people use to mow their own lawn,” he said. “I think there are two of us in my neighborhood that mow our lawns.”

Downvalley governments are looking to the upvalley communities for guidance on how to develop a uniform housing program.

Carbondale and Glenwood Springs seem to be bearing the brunt of increasing property prices, growth and a lack of affordable housing.

“We’ve got a fairly compact area with a very big problem,” Christensen said.

Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland said the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority has had plenty of experience in creating rules for deed-restricted housing. He suggested Garfield County learn from those mistakes.

“You can’t always out think inventive lawyers,” he said. “Now we have a pretty good idea of how to close the loopholes.”

Citizens and government entities from Parachute to Basalt will soon have all of their housing programs and services in one location. The Garfield County Housing Authority and the Mountain Regional Housing Corp. plan to merge, with offices located in Rifle and Glenwood Springs.

The Garfield County commissioners will be asked on April 14 to officially appoint the expanded board of the merged organizations, according to Geneva Powell and Kay Phillips, who presented the plan to the mayors on Friday.

Mercatoris said he could envision housing authorities throughout the valley and the Interstate 70 corridor working together through an intergovernmental agreement that focuses on affordable housing built around mass transit.

“I think a regional approach is a good one,” he said.

Also in attendance on Friday were Parachute Mayor Roy McClung, New Castle Mayor Frank Breslin, Mike Braaten, who was representing Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert, and Ken Brenner, a former Steamboat Springs City Council president who is running for state Senate District 8, which includes Eagle and Garfield counties.