Runyon claims time is ripe for growth control
Eagle County commissioner candidate Peter Runyon admits that someone with his views wouldn’t have stood a chance of election 10 years ago.Runyon, a Democrat running for the District 1 seat, has made growth control his central issue. He noted that the state demographer forecasts that Eagle County’s population will double from 44,000 to 90,000 by the year 2025.Runyon doesn’t want to see that happen, and he’s willing to bet that the majority of voters don’t want it either.Nobody wants to destroy the economy, Runyon said, so he’s not talking about eliminating growth. But he feels that most people moved to Eagle County because “it’s one of the world’s special places,” so they don’t want those qualities destroyed either.The problem is Eagle County’s existing zoning would allow another 24,000 residential units – virtually guaranteeing that the population projection will come true.All the commissioner candidates in this year’s election and prior ones claimed they are for “smart growth,” he noted, but they don’t really take appropriate action. Runyon acknowledged it would be political suicide for the county commissioners to propose a “downzoning,” or decreasing the development potential of raw land. Instead he’s promoting two alternatives that would help get growth under control.The first step he would take is to create a “blue ribbon, bipartisan commission” that would work on a new land-use code to more strictly control development. The proposed code would be put before voters for approval.”This issue is too important to be left completely to the discretion of the county commissioners,” Runyon’s campaign literature stated.He also suggested a step that could be taken to control where development occurs and potentially reduce the amount. Runyon said he would like Eagle County to adopt a transferable development rights program.Landowners who want to increase the density of projects in areas deemed compatible with development could acquire those rights from landowners in rural areas that aren’t deemed as suitable for development, he said.Runyon complained that he has been labeled a “no-growth candidate” by some of his foes, although he didn’t directly tie the effort to his opponent in the race, Republican Richard DeClark. So he is walking a delicate line – championing an increase in growth controls without trying to sound too extreme.Runyon, like DeClark, is a newcomer to politics. They are competing to take over for Michael Gallagher, who is stepping down after four years due to health problems.Runyon said he decided to get involved “because I felt I could do a better job” running the county that he loves. He came to the Eagle Valley in 1970 and has made it his primary residence for the last 34 years, leaving only on sailing adventures in the 1980s.Runyon, 59, of Edwards, is a photographer who owns two businesses selling postcards and souvenirs featuring his wilderness photographs. He said he has no interest in making a career of politics but wants to help as a “citizen politician” to maintain Eagle County as a great place to live. His thinks his 34-year perspective can make a difference.”I’ve seen where we’ve been. Maybe with my creative side I can see where we’re going.”When asked specifically what he could offer to voters in the Roaring Fork Valley portion of Eagle County, Runyon said, “I’ll make the five commissioners happen.”He claimed to be the first of the five candidates in two Eagle County commissioner races this year to promote the idea of going to a home-rule government and increasing the number of commissioners from three to five. The switch would require voter approval.Increasing the number of commissioners would increase representation and accountability of the county government, Runyon said. Areas like Basalt and El Jebel would benefit because they would always have someone from their area on the board.”You’re under-represented there,” he said.Under his plan, the county would be sliced into five districts. The voters of each district would select their representative but they would lose their votes in the other commissioner races.Runyon said he supports the candidacy of fellow Democrat Arn Menconi in the Eagle County commissioner District 2 race, although they aren’t running together. “We pretty much see things the same way,” he said.He criticized Gallagher and Commissioner Tom Stone, a Republican with two years left in office, for the way they have treated Menconi over the last four years. For example, the two commissioners refused to let Menconi serve as chair. Traditionally the chairmanship has rotated each year with every commissioner getting a shot.Menconi’s exclusion “was a slap in the face of voters,” claimed Runyon. The acrimony on the board over the last four years has resembled “kindergarten,” he added. He vowed that would change with his presence on the board.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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