Carbondale’s mayoral race a three-way affair
Carbondale has a three-way mayoral race on its hands, with incumbent Randy Vanderhurst facing Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Michael Hassig and political newcomer Erik Mazur. The election is Tuesday, April 2.
Erik Mazur, 29, is a carpenter for Lamont Construction. He holds a BA in elementary education, and has lived in Carbondale for five years.
“It’s time to get a little new blood in there,” he said of the Town Board.
Growth is a key issue. Mazur said he grew up in a subdivision outside St. Louis, but by the time he left, the area was surrounded by new development.
“I’d hate to see that happen here,” he said.
Mazur said he opposes a 60,000-square-foot building cap on commercial buildings, which the trustees considered before voting it down 4-3 in February.
“The building cap was a mistake. There’s nothing to draw shoppers here … like a Target. That type of store isn’t going for 60,000 square feet,” he said.
“New stores should allow Carbondale to improve its sales tax base, which will help increase opportunities and services for residents,” he added.
Mazur said he also favors the proposed Crystal River Marketplace on Highway 133.
“While there is a lot of controversy over Crystal River Marketplace, I think it’s necessary for the town’s well being,” he said.
The single most important issue for Mazur is affordable housing. He favored rezoning the 25-acre North Face property to allow for the 258-unit Meadowood Ranch project. The project included 39 deed-restricted houses, starting at $165,000, but the trustees voted it down 6-1.
“If we don’t get started getting some affordable housing, this town is in big trouble,” Mazur said.
Almost everyone in town seems to agree that congestion on Highway 133 is a problem and will get worse with increased development.
“Through proper planning and collaboration with developers, we can start a fund that would allow for an improvement of Highway 133 and Veteran’s Bridge” across the Roaring Fork, he suggested.
“I hope to bring some fresh life to the board, some new ideas,” Mazur said. “I’m kind of an outsider, maybe I’ll see something from a different view.”
Michael Hassig, 50, an architect, is a partner in the firm A4 Architects. He has lived in Carbondale since 1991, served on the town’s planning and zoning commission since 1993, and been its chairman for five years.
Hassig said he decided to run for mayor after receiving “about 20 phone calls,” urging him to run.
Hassig said that one theme that ran through the calls was the way he handled the sometimes controversial Mountain Folks for Global Justice and Meadowood Ranch hearings.
“People felt I’d done a fairly good job managing public debate on some pretty contentious issues,” Hassig said. “People also told me I’m a good listener.”
Hassig was not available for comment for this article, but in his profile on the Sopris Surfers website, he said the question Carbondale faces is not whether to grow, “but how to grow.”
“My vision of Carbondale’s future builds on what we already have,” he wrote. “I believe we are blessed to live in Carbondale, and that we have an obligation and an opportunity to build on what’s good.”
He said he also believes growth should pay its own way, and that the town shouldn’t be “in the business of subsidizing development.”
Hassig said he supports commercial development on Highway 133, “when we know and understand what the impacts will be, and when we have a plan to deal with those impacts.”
“Whether Target comes here or not, we have traffic challenges we must address,” he noted.
About town finances, Hassig said he supports a cautious, conservative approach to budgeting. “Let’s base next year’s budget on this year’s revenue,” he advised.
Hassig said Carbondale’s challenge is to balance the promises of growth, such as increased sales tax revenues and jobs, against the demands and impacts of growth, which can include “increased traffic, loss of small town character, and increased demand for housing and town services.”
Randy Vanderhurst, 62, a veterinarian, was a Carbondale trustee from 1992 to 1995, when he was appointed mayor following the resignation of Bill Gray. He ran unopposed in 1998.
Growth is also a big issue for Vanderhurst. “We need a balance between residential growth and commercial growth to make the town a complete municipality.”
Building a bigger retail base is also important. “I think we need retail businesses to locate here, so people can shop at home. Our town is dependent on sales tax, not property tax,” he said.
Vanderhurst, who has served on RFTA and other area boards, pointed to transportation, water, recreation needs and development outside the town limits, and said, “The mayor needs to forge alliances with other elected officials to make sure Carbondale is not bypassed in some way. We need a voice in those decisions.”
Vanderhurst said he is now Carbondale’s senior board member, and his historical perspective is important to the town. His experience, he said, “helps determine what doesn’t work.”
With the possibility of three newcomers to a seven-member board, he said, “boards like this need continuity.”
There are also ongoing projects Vanderhurst would like to continue to work on, including “Highway 133, affordable housing, growth, the (projected) budget deficit.”
At Monday’s trustee candidate forum, candidate Russell Hedman suggested that the town create a Latino advisory council to increase communication between Latinos and the rest of the town.
“If elected, I’ll be happy to sit on that board,” Vanderhurst said, endorsing the idea.
Vanderhurst voted with the majority when the trustees turned down a Mountain Folks for Global Justice zoning proposal. It included capped commercial building sizes at 60,000 square feet.
After the 4-3 vote, Vanderhurst called the board “dysfunctional.”
Explaining his view this week, he said the vote reflected the population’s split on the building cap issue. “You’re dysfunctional if you’re split,” he said.
He said the split seemed to heal following Tuesday night’s work session, and the board’s continued discussion on the remainder of the Mountain Folks zoning proposal.
“Everything seemed to come together … (discussion) was low key, and not contentious,” he said.
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