Snowmass “Squirm Night” forum puts candidates in the hot seat
Snowmass Village “Squirm Night” took place Wednesday night in council chambers at Snowmass Village Town Hall.
The two mayoral candidates and four contenders for two seats on the Snowmass Town Council answered questions from The Aspen Times, Aspen Daily News and Aspen Public Radio.
Asked about short-term rental regulations, Mayor Bill Madsen said he’s happy with the permitting process that the town has already approved.
“Before we start regulating anything, we need to figure out who’s renting, what amount of time, and once we have the data, then we can start focusing on if there needs to be regulations,” Madsen said.
Madsen added he wants to protect the community character of neighborhoods but doesn’t want to regulate hotels and condos.
Reed Lewis, who is challenging Madsen for the mayoral seat, is a local business owner and former city councilor. Lewis served from 2006 to 2010.
Lewis said he doesn’t see short-term rentals as a big issue in Snowmass Village.
“I don’t think it’s a horrible problem at this point,” he said. “I think there could be some better education. … I think one of the big issues is parking and partying. Quite honestly, I don’t think the amount of partying is really that out of control.”
The candidates discussed other hot-button topics, including development and changes in community character.
They also got the chance to ask each other a question toward the end of the forum.
Madsen asked Lewis, who owns local businesses on the Snowmass Mall, if Lewis would have to recuse himself during planning discussions related to matters on the mall.
That depends, Lewis said.
“I think the short answer could be yes, but I also feel like depending on what the effect of whatever the topic (was), I think it would depend on that,” he said. “When I was on the council before, I did recuse myself when it was inappropriate for me to vote on certain topics.”
Lewis asked Madsen if there was anything he wished he did differently.
Madsen responded that he has been happy with his work so far.
“I think that I’ve been pretty intentional about everything that we’ve worked through as a council and while I’ve been mayor, so I don’t really have any regrets,” he said.
After the mayoral forum wrapped, four candidates for Snowmass Village Town Council faced questions about the relationship between the town and the community.
Moderators from The Aspen Times, Aspen Daily News and Aspen Public Radio posed questions about the town budget and the council’s autonomy.
They wanted to know whether or not staff recommendations dictate council decisions.
Matt Dubé, who serves on the town’s planning commission and has previous staff experience from another municipal government, said the council members should be challenging the staff’s presentations.
“You know, (as staff) we owed it to the public to explain our positions, just like the members of the council owe it to the public to ask questions and go in a different direction if it’s not to their liking,” he said.
Incumbent Tom Goode and challenger Britta Gustafson disagreed over the phrase “just big enough,” which is a philosophy for growth in Snowmass Village that is included in the town’s comprehensive plan.
Goode found the phrase to be overdone and said it doesn’t represent Snowmass Village as it exists today.
“We’ve gone from rural to urban, and regardless of what anybody wants to do with development, we can slow it down, but we don’t own the land,” he said. “Developers develop, and that’s what they do.”
Gustafson said she thinks the phrase is aspirational and a “belief system.” To her, limiting growth makes the town unique and special; the phrase “just big enough” is part of her campaign platform and promotional materials.
“I think our emphasis on ‘just big enough’ really matters,” she said. “And I think it needs to be more than words, but I still believe in it.”
“Community character” was another common theme at Wednesday’s debate.
Candidate Susan Marolt cited outdoor recreation and other amenities that are part of that character.
“The community character of Snowmass Village has to include the hiking, biking and skiing that is literally right outside our doorsteps,” she said. “But in addition to that, we have almost every amenity you could think of for such a small town — (that) is kind of unheard of.”
The four candidates are vying for two available seats on Town Council.
The election takes place Nov. 8. Ballots go out Monday.