Glenwood Springs council candidates address housing, growth
None of the opponents got too heated in Monday’s Glenwood Springs City Council candidates debate, but two hot-button topics were well debated — housing and over-development.
The two contested races for this year’s City Council election are for an at-large seat between incumbent Tony Hershey and challenger Erin Zalinski, and the Ward 3 seat between incumbent Charlie Willman and challenger Sumner Schachter.
The Glenwood Springs Chamber, the Post Independent and KMTS hosted the Issues and Answers City Council Candidate Forum at City Hall, which allowed contested candidates to have a debate.
Each candidate made a statement about how housing is a local, state and national issue and is not just Glenwood centric.
“Housing is a major problem that is not limited to Glenwood, and we are not the sole providers who can solve it,” Schachter said.
Willman echoed the sentiment, stating that the city and Council would need to work toward regional collaboration to provide the needed workforce housing for Glenwood.
Hershey said he is not in favor of large-scale housing projects. People can move here and start renting and then “move up the housing chain,” he said.
Zalinski took more of a listen-and-learn approach.
“What I am going to do is to spend a lot of time looking at what is working and, more importantly, what isn’t because we should let other people make mistakes,” she said.
Glenwood has no room to grow like other cities. Aspen has been working on it for decades, spending millions of dollars with more resources and infrastructure, Hershey said.
“We just can’t do that. Or else, you fail to have the same community,” he said. “You’ve created something else, and again, I think that’s an issue.”
Growth and development
“Listen to people, listen to those who know where resources are, listen to what other people want, and work within those constraints,” Zalinski said, reminding people that not all development has to be housing.
Developing parks and open lands could generate more revenue, while keeping character and a sense of nature, she said.
Hershey said that it’s clear that Council wasn’t listening to the community when 480 Donegan was approved, though he saw it coming far ahead of time.
“Of course, there’s going to be some redevelopment that has to be smart,” he said. “It has to be in the right location, and we can’t destroy Glenwood to save it, and that is my concern. That’s why I’ve been fighting and sitting up here for years trying to do it.”
In her rebuttal statement, Zalinski agreed.
“Massive redevelopment is not something that I think anybody on either side of the table wants,” she said. “I think if you listen to the citizens and the constituents of Glenwood Springs, you’re not going to go down that road.”
Schachter vs. Willman
“I have a projection from some Habitat experts that indicates over the next 20 years, we could provide housing for perhaps 1,000 households that work and live here in Glenwood,” Schachter said in his opening about housing. “Being part of the regional housing group is a great start.”
Schachter referred to Glenwood joining the newly-formed West Mountain Regional Housing Coalition, which includes all Roaring Fork Valley municipalities.
Willman focused on regional transportation as a larger regional solution, and they both referred to Proposition 123.
“We cannot afford to wait for regional solutions,” Schachter said. “We hope to participate in them, but to wait for upvalley or even regional housing would be a mistake.”
To develop more workforce housing, Willman suggested city-owned parcels, while waiting for the growth management study currently being conducted by the city to decide how to best use that land, and working with local entities like Habitat for Humanity.
“There are areas that we can grow reasonably sustainably, we have to be careful with those,” Willman said. “We need to provide effective housing. We need to find owner-occupied housing that has to be at the forefront. Apartments don’t cut it, ownership does.”
Schachter then listed neutral growth options like down payment assistance, deed restriction payments, so housing can be converted to reasonable cost for employee-based housing and Accessory Dwelling Unit incentives.
“There are many things we can do that would be development neutral that doesn’t expand growth,” Schachter said.
Schachter noted that he voted no on 480 Donegan as a P&Z member but offered more sustainable solutions that were never tried.
“I was in the minority there because I don’t believe Glenwood has a need for large free-market apartments. At this point, we need owner-occupied more affordable housing,” Schachter said.
In Willman’s rebuttal response, he explained why he supported 480 Donegan.
“Every time I voted over the last four years is to vote to maintain the community that we live in,” Willman said. “Growth is a problem, but there are solutions for it, and they require us to make sustainable growth-related decisions that will allow us to maintain character.”
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