Stowe, Houpt voice visions for county |

Stowe, Houpt voice visions for county

Lynn Burton
Staff Writer

Walt Stowe is seeking a second term as Garfield County commissioner to follow through on projects started in the past four years.

“I think we’ve done reasonably well,” said Stowe, 47, a Republican.

Those things include improvements at the Garfield County Airport, affordable housing opportunities, public transportation and economic development.

Stowe said one of the county’s biggest ongoing projects is the $16 million airport upgrade. The county first started looking at the project the first year Stowe was a county commissioner. When the project is complete, the airport will be able to accommodate larger aircraft and possibly attract commercial freight service.

“That will be a boon for the county,” Stowe said. “It will stimulate economic development in Rifle. The airport has become an enterprise zone, and makes money for the county.”

Growth and development are issues in the campaign, and his concerns include economic development, open space and quality of life.

“Our economy is dependent on the fact we grow,” Stowe said.

Stowe said Garfield County should give people the opportunity to build what the market desires. “If someone has a reasonable solution or opportunity to provide housing and other benefits for the county, then I think we need to let them go ahead on that,” he said.

Stowe said preservation of open space is important, but he is concerned about weeds spreading in large-lot subdivisions.

“We need to look at subdivisions when they come up and see if there are critical view corridors and whether they are important. I think in a lot of cases they are,” he said.

Stowe praised the Blue Creek subdivision east of Carbondale for its affordable housing component, clustering of houses, access to the Roaring Fork River and open space along Highway 82.

“That’s the kind of growth I’d like to see,” he said.

Stowe said he favors county funding for Roaring Fork Transit Authority bus service. He also said the county will probably ask voters to approve a 0.25 to 0.5 percent sales tax hike to help fund RFTA in a year or two.

Stowe said the county has a liaison with the oil and gas industry, called a local government designee, but that person is planning director Mark Bean. “He feels the job requires more time than he can give it,” Stowe said. “I’m not sure it justifies a full-time position.” He favors starting with a one-quarter- or one-third-time contract position, and evaluating the success of the job after a year.

Stowe noted that the county commissioners adopted an affordable housing policy two years ago requiring developers to provide 10 percent deed-restricted housing. If re-elected, Stowe said, he would strongly support efforts aimed at helping people live in the communities where they work.

Stowe said he doesn’t think the threat of lawsuits drives county decisions. “But you’ve got to pick the fights you think you can win,” he said.

Stowe defends the county’s decision to vacate the Prehm Ranch road. The issues were complex, but key considerations were saving Westbank residents from the threat of having their property titles clouded.

The commissioners would also had to have reversed their earlier vote to vacate the road, which could have landed the county in court. Stowe said politically, he would have gotten away “pretty clean” if the commissioners had left the final decision to a judge.

“But that’s not what I was elected to do. I was elected to make decisions,” Stowe said.

Stowe said he will continue to be a full-time county commissioner if elected.

Stowe, 47, lives near Westbank with his wife, Shannon. Between them, they have four boys and five girls, ranging from 9 to 26 years old.

Stowe holds a bachelor’s of science degree in education, specializing in math and science, from the University of Colorado. He owns controlling interest in Ace Roofing Co., which is managed by his son and a partner, but does not draw a paycheck.

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