State of valley: it has problems | AspenTimes.com

State of valley: it has problems

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Elected officials representing governments from Pitkin County to De Beque acknowledged at a symposium Friday that growth in the region is creating overwhelming problems.

A panel that included the mayors of Snowmass Village, Basalt, Carbondale, Rifle and De Beque, and commissioners from Pitkin and Garfield counties spoke at the State of the Valley symposium about the issues facing their jurisdictions.

Following are samples of their observations:

– Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert noted that 2 percent annual population growth is considered robust. Rifle’s rate was 7 percent last year. “Katie bar the door,” he said.

– Carbondale Mayor Michael Hassig questioned if the local governments really have the financial and political tools to solve the problems caused by growth. “I’m less than sanguine about whether we’re really going to be able to step up,” he said.

Providing meaningful levels of affordable housing would require development densities that many residents wouldn’t tolerate, he noted. Local governments cannot build their way out of the problem.

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– Snowmass Village Mayor Doug Mercatoris said that town faces a shortage of affordable housing, even though it’s had a program in place for decades. Getting more workers housed closer to where they work, thus easing pressure on transit systems, will be a key for the region, he said.

– Basalt Mayor Leroy Duroux said every town in the Roaring Fork Valley and lower Colorado River Valley faces the challenge of keeping the middle-class, worker bees in their communities.

– De Beque Mayor Don Cramer said 10 years ago he would have scoffed at the notion that he would be an environmentalist. Now, he said, a leading concern is the environmental consequences of population growth and the natural gas boom. He questioned why the federal government is hell bent to allow the gas industry to remove all reserves from western Colorado in such a short time.

– Pitkin County Commissioner Rachel Richards said the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys must be wary of pressures of growth from outside as well as inside the region. Sprawling Front Range cities covet water from across the Continental Divide.

“The whole Western Slope is on the bull’s eye for transmountain [water] diversions,” she said.

The elected officials found some solace in that the mayors have been meeting monthly for about two years to discuss issues. They decided Friday to invite representatives of Pitkin and Garfield counties as well. The hope is they can gain more clout in state and regional issues with a unified voice.

Richards said cooperative efforts could lead to common regulations, like requirements from developers for affordable housing.