Pitkin County Commissioner candidates Q&A: What are your views on growth in the coming years? | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County Commissioner candidates Q&A: What are your views on growth in the coming years?

Staff report

pitkin county race

The Aspen Times published a five-day series with the five candidates for Pitkin County commissioner. Here are the topics addressed:

Monday: What are your views on growth in Pitkin County and should it be slowed, increased or stay the same and should house sizes be capped?

Tuesday: What, if anything, should be done to increase affordable housing in Pitkin County? Do you think APCHA is being run and administered properly and what would you like to see done differently?

Wednesday: Do you support efforts to widen the runway to accommodate larger airplanes? What is the most important issue to consider in planning the new airport?

Thursday: How would you rate Pitkin County’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? How would you contribute to on-going efforts to counter the effects of the pandemic if elected?

Friday: What is the gravest and most important issue facing Pitkin County today?

For more on the 2020 ballot, go to aspentimes.com/election.

Editor’s note: This is the launch of our 2020 election coverage for the upcoming Nov. 3 election. This is day 1 of a five-day question-and-answer with the five Pitkin County commissioner candidates.

There are five candidates running for three commissioner seats.

Greg Poschman, a Brush Creek Village resident, is finishing his first term in District 3 and is running unopposed.

Current Board Chairmain Steve Child, a Capitol Creek rancher, filed to run for his third term for District 4. Former Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board member Chris Council, a Snowmass Village resident and local photographer, is running against Child.

In District 5, Francie Jacober, a retired teacher and Prince Creek Road resident, faces Jeffrey Evans of Basalt, a longtime proponent of finding a solution to the Entrance to Aspen. The seat is open because Commissioner George Newman is term-limited and will step down after three four-year terms.

For the first day, we’ve asked each candidate for a short bio and also to answer this question (200-word limit): What are your views on growth in Pitkin County and should it be slowed, increased or stay the same and should house sizes be capped?

Steve Child

Age: 72

Profession: Pitkin County commissioner, semi-retired rancher, retired public school teacher and bus driver

How long have you lived in Pitkin County?

59 years

What made you decide you wanted to run for county commissioner?

One final term as county commissioner would cap my lifetime of public service in my various professional and volunteer positions. Being an elected local official allows me to have a positive influence on policy regarding wise stewardship of community and environmental resources, action on climate change, and helping people in our community.

What are your views on growth in Pitkin County?

Pitkin County has done a good job for decades of managing growth and helping keep our valley as a nice place to live and visit. We need to continue our slow-growth policy, allowing for improvements in the quality of our community more than the quantity of development, with the exception of affordable housing, of which we need to build more. There are upper limits on how much the valley should grow, and we are seeing the impacts of growth on our local highway with increasingly worse traffic congestion.

House sizes are already capped at 15,000 square feet, and I favor a reduction in that size, as well as a great increase in their energy efficiency. Such large homes create a huge demand for services, and place pressures on our labor pool and traffic congestion. Large houses have a much larger energy use and carbon footprint per square foot than smaller homes. The average house size in our county is about 3,800 square feet, so reducing the maximum house size will have little or no effect on the average person.


Age: 44

Profession: Commercial and editorial photographer

How long have you lived in Pitkin County?

Nine years

What made you decide you wanted to run for county commissioner?

My involvement with affordable housing issues, ownership of a small business and most importantly my love of Pitkin County led me to enter the race. I believe we need strong leaders who exhibit a new level of energy, bring creative ideas and represent the future of our community.

What are your views on growth in Pitkin County?

We need to focus on smart growth policies in order to protect our environment, our economy and our community values. While growth management planning is finally underway, development has largely gone unchecked for the past 30 years.

From 2013 to 2017 — under the tenure of my opponent — square footage of new/additional construction increased in the county by 47%. The county projects that if potential development is maxed out, 2,900 full time equivalents will be required to support the new homes. This growth will negatively impact aspects of our community that are already stretched: housing, traffic, infrastructure, schools, the landfill and the environment.

Something clearly needs to be done to moderate growth.

I do believe we need to look at reducing the current maximum of 15,000 square feet.

However, I do not support the current proposal to reduce exempt square footage from 5,750 to 3,250. I believe this proposal is too draconian and will have significant unintended consequences. At this size home we can reduce environmental impact through the building code.

All growth decisions need to be made transparently, with public engagement and to balance climate change goals with our economy and the future of our community.


Age: 68

Profession: Pending

How long have you lived in Pitkin County?

50 years

What made you decide you wanted to run for county commissioner?

To provide a different perspective.

What are your views on growth in Pitkin County?

The use of height limitations and property line setbacks often results in a de facto house size cap, but the underlying rationale is to reduce the impact on neighboring properties. For those on much larger tracts of land there is no clear governmental interest in setting an arbitrary limit on the size of a personal residence. Operation of commercial enterprises in residential zones can be prevented regardless.

Many people apparently feel that caps are appropriate as a means of resource conservation (for lack of a better description) but the logic of that perspective leads to a scary potential for government overreach. All of us are only a “smart thermostat” away from having the temperature in our homes set by a central authority.

Particular neighborhoods that desire to maintain their character with smaller buildings can achieve that purpose by having property owners deed restrict their own land. This is a better solution if the goal is long-term preservation.

“Controlling growth” is a phrase which generally means “Stop change.” Government cannot satisfy that desire. In regard to population increase, Pitkin County is pretty well locked down. There is no unbuilt multi-family zoned property anywhere in Pitkin County.


Age: 73

Profession: Retired teacher, current restaurant manager

How long have you lived in Pitkin County?

27 years in Roaring Fork Valley; 18 years in Pitkin County

What made you decide you wanted to run for county commissioner?

I was asked if I would be interested in running. I like to be involved with and really enjoy issues around land use, agriculture, building codes, all issues around solving the wealth gap, immigration — in other words, I love politics and policy. Seemed like the perfect place to put my energy.

What are your views on growth in Pitkin County?

Given the recent growth in our permanent population due to the desirability of our valley in the time of COVID, this would be an appropriate time to pause and consider what benefits increased development and population growth actually accrue to the valley residents.

This recent growth spurt has been accompanied by significant real estate sales and construction projects. Those are two industries (and there are many others) which would obviously benefit from continuing growth, but the effects on the character and lifestyle of the valley as well as the Aspen schools are undetermined.

At the inception of transferable development rights (TDRs), the intent was to limit the construction of residences in remote and sensitive areas and the use of TDRs has protected 5,840 acres from development. However, over time it has morphed into a mechanism for allowing larger and larger houses.

I strongly support increased scrutiny of the possibilities for reducing residential building size limits. I have to ask why anyone feels the need to build a 27,000-square-foot house (10 times the average size of American homes). We cannot continue to validate the excessive use of resources and energy for a single-family residence.


Age: 61

Profession: Pitkin County commissioner; media producer; filmmaker; biophiliast

How long have you lived in Pitkin County?

61 years.

What made you decide you wanted to run for county commissioner?

Friends proposed that I run four years ago. It had not occurred to me before, but my life-long love of our valley, natural resources and my connection to our mountain community is a good foundation for working to ensure that our kids can share our incredible experience.

What are your views on growth in Pitkin County?

For about 60 years, Pitkin County and its resort towns have been walking the razor’s edge between quality of small-town life and seemingly infinite opportunity to grow bigger and more crowded. We have made great progress controlling growth, yet the rapid change is uncomfortable for many local residents.

We must consider a steady-state target when it comes to population growth. We don’t have to grow to survive. We are not only a company town that must compete with other ski resorts for market share.

We are a community with great value beyond a heated real estate and construction industry. House size has long been discussed by the community and BOCC, as we focus on carbon emissions, energy and resource efficiency, landfill and highway/transit capacity, affordable housing and other infrastructure and service needs.

Let’s continue to take a long, critical look at creating a community which renews itself without growing larger at the expense of our natural world and quality of life. If we approach growth with a thorough public process and take discreet steps, we can continue to enhance and maintain quality of life for the community and visitors alike.


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