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Snowmass Village candidates debate the future

Katie Redding
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

SNOWMASS VILLAGE ” Related WestPac’s recent layoffs and delays emerged as an underlying issue in Wednesday’s candidate forum in Snowmass Village.

However, a number of concerns ” including sustainability, transportation and use of the town car wash ” were at issue on Wednesday between Snowmass Village mayoral candidates Bill Boineau and Arnie Mordkin and Town Council candidates Kay Honigman-Singer, John Wilkinson and Markey Butler.

Johnny Boyd and Roger Marolt, both columnists for sponsor Snowmass Sun, were invited to ask questions of the five candidates, as were the roughly 15 audience members. At the end of the debate, candidates asked questions of each other.

The latter section caused one of the small “fireworks” moments in a very polite debate. At one point, Boineau asked Mordkin about an alleged failure to follow rules for using the town car wash, to which which council members and staff have privileges. According to Boineau, certain members of staff have said that Mordkin will not restrict his car wash use to certain hours on certain days ” or defer to the needs of buses ” even after multiple requests by staff.

Responding, Mordkin began by noting that no one is allowed to use the town car wash right now because the employee responsible for it wants to first produce a video about how to use the drive-through car wash (and because another car wash has opened in town).

He then noted that while he feels that while it is important to adhere to rules, “it is also important to make reasonable and rational rules.” Mordkin argued that whenever rules ” car wash or otherwise ” are made just to suit one group or person’s needs, they should be changed.

Later in this section, Wilkinson asked the two mayoral candidates why they had approved changing the employee housing mitigation for Base Village to 45 percent, while sitting on a previous council.

Mordkin explained that the previous developer, Intrawest, had a “no action letter” requiring all units to be rented and managed through one reservation group. Thus, he said, the number of employees needed to run the buildings would have been reduced.

“If I had a crystal ball and would have thought of them selling to another entity, I would have done things entirely differently,” he said.

Boineau said that in 2004, many employees had told the council that they would rather buy downvalley property than live in affordable housing in Snowmass.

“Today, I think that times have changed,” he said, noting that downvalley housing is not as affordable as it once was. Boineau has written that housing mitigation should be changed to 100 percent, though he acknowledged on Wednesday the number should be vetted.

Both Mordkin and Wilkinson supported a proposal by Mordkin to have the Town Council elect the mayor every year, with Morkin alleging that past mayors have made back-door deals with constituents.

“I can assure you there are promises made that ought not be made,” he said.

Mordkin argued that council members would be better-equipped to keep an eye on each other and choose to depose someone who was abusing the powers of the mayoral seat.

Arnie Mordkin’s council seat was also raised as an issue. If he is elected mayor, a council seat will open for the remaining two years of his term. All candidates agreed that the new council member should be chosen by the town’s citizens.

When the conversation turned to the economy, the candidates were in general agreement that changes should not yet be granted to Base Village, even in light of Wednesday’s news about Related WestPac’s layoffs.

Wilkinson pointed out that Base Village approval was not linked to any particular economic climate. Honigman-Singer noted her concern that many of the previously granted changes ” such as the addition of the Viceroy ” have fundamentally changed the original vision. Butler hoped for no significant changes,

but acknowledged that Snowmass citizens may have to “get our arms wrapped around” possible delays. Boineau argued for taking things cautiously ” noting that it would not be appropriate to overreact to this week’s economic news. Mordkin pointed out, as he has before, that economic conditions are transitory, but the buildings will be permanent.

On the issue of whether to any plans should be approved for West Village (site of the Snowmass Mall) and the Snowmass Center, however, Mordkin said Snowmass should wait to approve plans for the Snowmass Center or West Village until Base Village’s impact could be examined.

“I think we need to know what goes on in Base Village and its impacts before we go tinkering,” he said.

Boineau called for “caution” going into the future, noting that Snowmass can only absorb so much development.

Wilkinson supported moving forward with planning for the two developments on the horizon, saying he was committed to the idea that a redeveloped West Village and Snowmass Center would work in tandem with Base Village ” making a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Butler and Honigman-Singer both stressed the importance of evaluating Base Village and its impacts, but also said they were concerned about the deteriorating state of Snowmass Village. Honigman-Singer suggested that Aspen Skiing Co. donate the money to revitalize the two areas.

kredding@aspentimes.com


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