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City Council candidates focus on housing crisis

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Glenwood Springs’ affordable housing crisis loomed like a hefty mortgage bill over a debate among City Council candidates Monday night.The five candidates all spoke of the need for the city to try to address the problem, but none of them as persistently as David Blazier, who is making it the central point of his campaign. He said he has a plan to create more affordable housing so businesses can continue to find employees, and not have to exorbitantly raise their prices.”I’d like to be elected and follow this plan through, maybe a little bit at a time,” Blazier said.David Sturges, who is running against Blazier for an at-large council seat, shared his concern about the housing problem, fearing that Glenwood Springs could lose its diversity of income levels among residents.”I really would not want to see a community of haves and have-nots,” Sturges said.Sturges and Blazier’s comments came as part of a candidates forum presented at City Hall by the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association. The other three candidates include Shelley Kaup, Russ Arensman and incumbent Bruce Christensen, who also serves as mayor.Those three are running uncontested for council ward seats. They, along with either Blazier or Sturges, will become part of a seven-member council, and so the comments from the candidates Monday night gave a glimpse into what a majority of the next council might be thinking on some key issues.Among those issues, council candidates voiced a near-unanimous interest in the possibility of shutting down the city’s airport for other uses, and three voiced reluctance to build a Highway 82 bypass along the railroad corridor near the Roaring Fork River.But the housing issue colored much of Monday’s forum. Arensman said the city needs to “stop being afraid of density,” and allow for more concentrated housing development in town to help meet the need. Kaup agreed, while Christensen said he would like to explore public-private partnerships as one solution.Blazier, Arensman and Kaup all mentioned housing as one possible component of redevelopment of the confluence area of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers.On the subject of the airport, Christensen said he has piloted planes and has mixed feelings. But he added, “In all likelihood it’s beginning to look like we have other uses that might be better for it.”Sturges said the city will need to discuss the future of the airport. Arensman said the airport’s fate was sealed years ago when the city began allowing housing to be built all around it, and Kaup said she has safety concerns related to the airport.Only Blazier voiced support for the facility, saying that “maybe through the airport isn’t the best way” to build a route to a proposed bridge over the Roaring Fork River south of town.On the question of the bypass, Arensman said addressing the housing problem is a better way to deal with the city’s traffic congestion.”I don’t think we can pave our way out of this problem,” he said.Kaup said building more roads just brings more traffic, and the traffic congestion in Glenwood has regional causes that require regional solutions.Christensen noted that the city is awaiting the results of a study designed to look at its Highway 82 congestion problems and potential solutions. But he said he’s not sure he can support building another highway through town.However, Sturges said it’s important for the city to continue acquiring right of way along the railroad corridor so it can continue to have the option of building a bypass there. And Blazier said getting traffic onto a bypass and off Grand Avenue would make downtown a healthier place.Contact Dennis Webb: 384-9119dwebb@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO


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