Groneman would like to see more ways to engage the public in the government input process
SILVERTHORNE – In politics, people have a tendency to see things in terms of black and white; perhaps that’s why Councilwoman Sheila Groneman has been labeled Silverthorne’s “no-growth” mayoral candidate.
But that description, Groneman said, is far from accurate, and growth issues make up only a portion of her agenda.
“I can’t really think of many growth projects I haven’t supported,” she said, mentally thumbing through the list of development proposals she’s seen. “Willow Creek, Highlands … I’ve tweaked others – The Ponds, Three Peaks, Retreat on the Blue. And I’m a strong supporter of Target, and have been since the beginning.
“I guess the no-growth perception comes out of the annexation of the Smith Ranch,” she said. “And until recently, I always voted in favor of annexation, and I did support the initial sketch plan.”
Nonetheless, it is Groneman’s opposition to a proposed commercial core on Silver Mountain Village – a 72-acre mixed-use project on the now-vacant Smith Ranch property – that has garnered her the most attention. It also threatens to overshadow the issues she sees as key to her candidacy: cooperation, communication, planning and a strong belief in the participatory process.
“My job as an elected official is to find out the needs, interests and issues of our citizens,” she said. “One of the concerns I have had with some of the processes we’ve developed at the town policy level, is that it is not as open as it could be and does not engage the public as much as we can.
“We need to create more opportunities for citizens to provide input. I think oftentimes when you see contentious issues, whether it be land use or transportation, whenever I see that, I think if people have not had an opportunity to learn about an issue, be heard about an issue, they feel a decision is being made without consideration for the public’s feelings.”
Her job, as mayor, would not be to solve problems in a vacuum, she said, but rather to “involve the public in solving their own problems.”
Some of those problems, she recognizes, surround the issues of growth and sprawl.
Growth is a simple word for a very complex issue,” she said. “In our last community opinion survey, the top concerns were over-building, transportation, traffic and congestion. Growth isn’t just development, it’s everything that goes with it – how it impacts town services, schools and other social needs, housing and workforce issues.
“It’s just not as simple as building a grocery store or not building a grocery store. Planning is an important piece of what government is all about, and being fiscally responsible. We’re held accountable for the public’s pocketbook.”
Keeping that pocketbook filled could lead to some tough decisions for Silverthorne residents and their elected representatives.
“I was out knocking on doors in the first phase of this campaign, and a lot of people said we should still consider establishing a property tax,” she said. “And I think we have to seriously consider all revenue opportunities. The town has always talked about trying to diversify revenue sources because the basic services are tied to the ups and downs of the economy. And, unfortunately, people’s expectation are a little more even.”
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