(Editor’s note: The Aspen Daily News has posed questions to the 10 candidates running for an Aspen City Council seat in the May 7 election. The Daily News will run the responses of two candidates each day this week, through Friday.)
Biggest accomplishment in life (other than your family, if you have one): I would have said my two sons, but since I can’t, I consider my greatest accomplishment the founding and management of Civitas. Civitas, an urban design and landscape architecture firm was started in 1984. We grew from two people to a staff of 50 and were recognized nationally for our work.
Have you ever been arrested? If so, for what? If not, what is the worst infraction you’ve made in life?: No, never arrested. Worst infraction was losing my driver’s license because of too many speeding tickets.
What kind of car do you drive?: Audi S4 Avant
Favorite book, movie or quote: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” — Oscar Wilde
1. If elected, what is the first initiative you will bring to City Hall and to your fellow council members?
There is community concern about the inventory and condition of lodging in town. Small lodges are essential to our economy but they must be fresh, up to date and competitive with other lodging options. The same can be said for the condominium lodging properties. Council has already suggested some relief for small lodges (60 units or less) from obligations triggered by renovation.
I would propose three things: Gaining input and consensus from small lodges and the condominium segment of the lodging market as to what incentives will motivate and allow them to update their properties; reviewing the current code for imbalanced treatment of different types of lodging and correcting the code where necessary; and producing a cost-benefit analysis of any proposed program.
2. Two part question: What has the municipal government failed to do in representing the residents of Aspen in the past year? What has City Hall excelled at in the past year?
A. The city failed to adequately vet the proposed increase in affordable housing mitigation fees, basically tripling the cash-in-lieu contribution for mitigation. By using the Market Affordability Gap method, the burden of providing funding for affordable housing falls almost entirely on the residential owner, contrary to the city’s encouragement of public/private partnerships for the affordable housing program. It puts an onerous burden on new home construction, and creates a disincentive for small home remodels and renovations.
B. The plastic bag ban has been a successful program. Visitors, locals and businesses have gradually accepted the ban and a beneficial unanticipated result has been the opportunity for lodges and business to provide guests with reusable bags that accommodate the guests and provide excellent advertising for the businesses.
3. With the roughly 2,800 units in the affordable housing inventory structurally aging, as well as a majority of its residents retiring in them, should the city continue to build more to house the next generation of the workforce? At what price?
The city needs to revisit the original goals of the housing program to test the original assumptions and objectives against what has evolved over the last 40 years before a decision is made as to when and how many additional units need to be built.
There is a large inventory of aging units, 25 to 30 years old, that need attention to maintain quality housing for our employees. The numerous and varied HOAs need to be evaluated so that their management of the properties safeguards affordability of the housing. Our aging population is staying in units, but how many and how long, we need firm information on this issue. In addition to the above, a long-term physical plan should be developed which will describe how new affordable units are absorbed into the larger city and county context.
4. Given that the direction the downtown commercial core is going in, with large buildings housing retail stores that create a Gucci and Prada lover’s paradise, knocking out locally serving businesses, do you have any ideas on what to do about it as an Aspen elected official?
The actions of the city as policy maker and planner are critical to promoting and retaining locally owned and locally serving businesses so they remain a vital part of the downtown core.
There are varied ways to support and promote “local” businesses: Clustering same types of businesses together; restricting the size of retail space; zoning allowing only certain uses; adjacency of complementary uses; new models of ownership; incentives; simplified and easily negotiated permitting processes; reasonable fees; shared spaces; incubator spaces and others.
Each of these alone will not work but the right combination carefully drafted to address the challenges of the downtown core could result in the reinvigoration of local businesses downtown. Policies that put the community first most often result in a lively local retail economy and a vital downtown core.