Mayor and Silverthorne Town Council candidates share views on issues, challenges at community forum
The candidates spoke about the town’s growth, their support for a new Summit Fire & EMS location, mitigating the impacts of climate change and the use of the old fire station
Silverthorne residents are just days away from getting their municipal election ballots in the mail which give them a chance to vote for who they want to see fill four town council seats.
In preparation for the municipal election, six of the seven Silverthorne Town Council candidates participated in a forum on Tuesday, March 8, along with incumbent Mayor Ann-Marie Sandquist, who is running for reelection unchallenged.
The three council candidates with the most votes will serve a four-year term, and the council candidate with the fourth most votes will serve a two-year term to finish out Tanya Shattuck’s term since she moved out of the district.
Participants included: Chris Carran, owner of Locals Liquors; Erin Young, owner of Red Buffalo Coffee & Tea; Tanecia Spagnolia, owner of both Timberline Craft Kitchen & Cocktails and Tree Line Bloody Mary Mixes; incumbent Kelly Baldwin, owner of Elevation Bookkeeping LLC; Tim Applegate, owner of eight local restaurants; Valerie Connelly, owner of Southern Exposure Salon and technology support specialist for Summit High School; and incumbent Ann-Marie Sandquist, senior advisor with Schechter Wealth.
Zach Kauk, retired Silverthorne resident, did not attend the forum.
Question 1: How would you work to ensure the rapid growth of Silverthorne does not impact the quality of life for residents as it relates to crowding, traffic and demand for services?
Both Sandquist and Baldwin pointed to a couple of studies the town frequently references to make decisions. Sandquist said this was to make sure there was “something for everyone,” and Baldwin said these plans were to maintain the town’s character.
Carran acknowledged that these plans were in place but said they need to be reevaluated as growth happens. She thinks the town should continue working with the Colorado Department of Transportation to improve Exit 205, as well as maintain infrastructure and sewage capacity.
Spagnolia commended the town’s efforts to market itself but also said that Town Council needs to manage the influx of visitors carefully by maintaining and updating its infrastructure and exploring other revenue streams to fund these projects.
Applegate noted that the town will continue to see transplants who wish to be part of the town’s community and wanted to focus on ensuring there was enough housing available for these new community members.
Young said, in theory, the town should be identifying and solving future problems, but she said the town is instead playing catch-up as more residents and visitors flock to the area. She said the town should constantly be adjusting for new concerns and challenges.
Connelly voiced support for increased density and said that setting aside enough housing for the town’s workforce will be key to providing services for both residents and tourists.
Question 2: What actionable steps can Silverthorne take to mitigate the effects of climate change — including decreased snowpack, increased risk of wildfire — and how do you plan to meet the goals of the Summit County Action Plan?
Connelly said that she’d like to see historical climate patterns before making decisions. Growing up, Connelly said she remembers hearing a lot about recycling in school and voiced support for bringing similar programs to the Summit School District.
Young said she wants to “make climate change cool” so other community members become more engaged in the issue. She said she’d like to see how developments can encompass various sustainability initiatives in a way that’s good for business and that the town should look at its transportation initiatives and wildfire mitigation, too.
Carran voiced support for the pay-as-you-throw program and said she’d like to focus more on educating visitors about their waste. She said she’d like to see more bus routes added to the Summit Stage and that these could go a long way in getting visitors to local ski resorts.
Applegate, who lives close to where the Ptarmigan Fire broke out, said he’d like to increased wildfire mitigation efforts and that he’d like to work with other stakeholders who can help present additional climate change strategies.
Baldwin advocated for programs like electric vehicle charging stations, sustainable building codes and other policies that will “follow the science,” especially since Summit County’s economy depends on its environment.
Spagnolia was in support of plastic bag bans, which the town has not been interested in, and added that she’d like to see recycling made more convenient.
Sandquist pointed to the town’s sustainability endeavors already in place, such as the solar garden near North Pond Park, all of its electric vehicle charging stations and more.
Question 3: How will you work to push Summit Fire & EMS to build a station to provide critical emergency services in Silverthorne?
Currently, Summit Fire & EMS services are provided out of its other locations, the closest being in Dillon, and both Sandquist and Baldwin said there should be some kind of facility located in the town’s limits, even if it starts out small.
Applegate and Carran pointed to fires such as the 2021 Ptarmigan Fire and the 2018 Buffalo Mountain Fire and questioned whether or not having a Summit Fire & EMS presence in the town would have helped mitigate these events sooner. Carran said she’d like to better understand the barriers to have a Summit Fire presence in the town better, too.
Young said she’d like to see all stakeholders collaborate on a path forward. Spagnolia said the town has plenty of space to dedicate to a facility, and Connelly said having a facility in town limits would be beneficial to individuals living farther north.
Question 4: What do you think is the best use of the old fire station in downtown Silverthorne?
The Silverthorne Art Board has expressed interest in turning the old fire station into a potential art co-op in the town’s core, and Baldwin and Sandquist expressed support for moving this project forward. Baldwin said tenants could pay rent on this space in the future, adding another revenue stream to the town’s budget. Sandquist said some classes for kids could be offered, too.
Connelly, Young and Carran all pointed to the town’s lack of child care — since most child care facilities are on the south end of the county — and expressed interest in turning the facility into a day care. All three noted the high demand for services and, although the space is small, that it could help solve an immediate need many residents in the county face.
To that, Applegate said he didn’t think this would be a good spot for a child care facility, mostly because of its location. Instead, he said the town should hang onto it for future use.
Spagnolia said it should also be kept within the town’s ownership but that the residents of Silverthorne should be asked about its future use.
Ballot Question: Should Silverthorne raise its excise lodging tax from 2% to 6%?
Sandquist spoke in favor of the ballot question and said one of the biggest reasons she supports the measure is because the town doesn’t collect property taxes. Most of its budget is funded through sales tax revenue and the town currently doesn’t have the space to host another big-box retailer such as Target.
As the town continues to grow, Sandquist said it’ll need to find other ways to surplus its budget.
She also noted that many other jurisdictions in the state have taxes between 13% and 20% and that the town will still have a low lodging tax in comparison.
Bruce Butler presented alternative arugments and said there could be some points against the ballot question. Butler, who is a former mayor and council member in Silverthorne and a current resident, said he wasn’t necessarily against the lodging tax increase but that its lack of specific use could raise some eyebrows.
He also noted that the vacation lodging industry has recently dealt with a lot of new local regulations and rules, too.
“The major points, were someone to oppose this, (is) lodging is an easy industry to pick on right now,” Butler said. “A lot of people this time of year are a little bit tired of seeing a lot of tourists and that sort of stuff. It’s an industry that doesn’t necessarily, immediately hit local residents but it’s one that is certainly out there as a potential target.”
Butler also noted that Silverthorne has made itself an attractive town to start a business and that this tax goes against those efforts.
Ballots mail to residents on March 15 and voters should return those by the municipal election on April 5.
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