A brisk and informative forum of the candidates for Lyons Trustees and Mayor took place on March 9, at the Lyons Community Library. More than 80 people attended the standing-room-only event. The evening started off with each candidate giving a brief introduction of themselves and why they wanted to run for office.
The most discussed topics were affordable housing goals, the budget (priorities and potential cuts), the water treatment plant (rates and handling harmful discharges), and infrastructure (the Fourth Avenue pedestrian bridge, road maintenance, the electric grid). Other topics included the Urban Renewal Authority, the Town use of herbicides, and the cost of the proposed single-hauler plan. Money was at the heart of many of the questions and answers.
Trustee candidate Kenyon Waugh stated that he wanted to be a presence on the Board as a representative of Lyons businesses. He (along with other partners) has started three businesses in town, and in doing so has had a number of issues at Town Hall that he felt were not properly addressed. He stated his reason for moving to Lyons was because of the creativity of its people. He also said that the founder of Lyons set a precedent that we should continue, stating that the first thing that Edward S. Lyon did in town was build a schoolhouse and a church, while other mountain towns were building saloons.
Hollie Rogin’s background is in strategy and using data to make decisions. She stated that it helps her learn quickly. Rogin wants to look at the aging infrastructure of town. She has a few new ideas, especially for affordable housing and small businesses.
Mark Browning was the only candidate who handed out a printed sheet spelling out his platform. Browning is an active volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and Lyons Meals on Wheels. He has served two terms as Trustee. He said he is running because there are many important matters left on the table and important budget reforms necessary to prepare for some tough financial decisions in the near future. He was the only candidate who made revising the 2010 Comprehensive Plan as a top item, and called for a clearer summary of the facts to be put on the Town’s web site.
Greg Lowell has served on the Parks and Recreation Commission, the Ecology Advisory Board, and the Arts and Humanities Commission, and has done other volunteer work in town as well. He worked for 45 years in communications and wants to help the Town’s citizens be more informed, partially through increasing transparency. He loves living in small towns, has lots of family, including grandchildren, living in the region. He said that he was once told that when you know half the people in town by name, it’s time to step up, and that’s what he is doing.
Michael Karavas has served four years as Trustee. He has also served as chair of the Lyons Volunteers, and volunteers with several other groups in town. He wants to work on the budget and flood recovery. He was the only one to talk about concerns with storm drainage, fires, wash outs, floods, and generally being prepared.
Robert Brakenridge said, in his introductory statement, “I am here because I care about the town, like all of you.” He moved here in 2009, and says he has always followed the town government issues closely. He spoke about getting the Fourth Avenue pedestrian bridge done. He said governance and the budget are at the top of his list. Most recently he has worked with the Ecology Advisory Board.
Wendy Miller was out sick. She is a two-term incumbent, and the Board liaison to the Lyons Housing & Human Services Commission.
Nick Angelo was Lyons’ Mayor in 2000 and in 2006, and served two terms as Trustee before that. Angelo stated the water treatment plant is extremely important, and is his number-one issue.
Jocelyn Farrell is currently a trustee and running for Mayor. She is the Board liaison for the Lyons Arts & Humanities Commission, and Commissioner for the Lyons Urban Renewal Authority. She felt that being on the current Board is an asset because she is already very familiar with current projects like the flood recovery efforts and grant regulations.
The first question asked of the candidates was about the top three things they would do if elected. Most spoke in more detail about what they had said in their opening statements. In addition, Rogin wants the Town to look into getting designated as a Colorado Creative District, which would potentially bring in grant money. There are currently 26 Colorado communities designated as such that have multiple galleries and special arts events.
The buyout properties on Apple Valley Road led to a lot of discussion, and a split decision as to whether to obtain them from Boulder County Open Space. The surplus properties, caused by the flood of 2013, could be transferred to Town for free, but could have high ongoing maintenance fees. Farrell stated some of the things she had learned at past Board meetings and that she was undecided because more study was needed.
Lowell said that he has been involved in Boulder County buyouts for a while. He took a tour and walked the land in question, which he said has given him some insight. Rogin was concerned that using the properties for recreation might disturb the wildlife corridor, and that she would want studies done. Waugh felt there were creative options for the properties, including partnering with outside groups. Browning felt the Town should not acquire more property that it could not afford to maintain. Angelo would leave the decision to the people who live near the properties.
Lowell’s top topic was that an informed citizenry is an engaged citizenry, and that the Town was not doing enough to keep it informed. He wondered why the town had chosen to be a representative democracy. He asked, shouldn’t we all have a vote on all issues? He held up a copy of an annual report from the town where he lived previously. Brakenridge, too, recommended a printed annual summary of everything the Town and various boards do.
What should be built in Lyons? Waugh, Farrell, Brakenridge, and Browning all spoke in favor of affordable housing to various degrees. (More details on the candidates’ positions on affordable housing in this article.) Attention to small businesses was voiced by Waugh, Farrell, Rogin, and Browning.
The sewer plant is a key issue for Angelo, as well as for Farrell, Browning, and Brakenridge. Angelo said it was a $6 million investment that we had to protect. He wants the Town to adopt a pre-treatment ordinance requiring diversion or treatment of harmful discharges.
The candidates also discussed the eastern corridor businesses and the parking situation there. Rogin wanted to see small business get some assistance, such as the laundromat that could not afford its sewer bills and recently closed down. She pointed out that there are some who would like to build three-story buildings, but the fire department does not have a ladder truck that could access all floors.
Waugh said businesses need affordable housing for employees. Lowell saw easy access to stores being a problem for the eastern corridor. Karavas gave a long list of things that need to be considered, including the concern that the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) might ask for more access to the land. He wants to promote mixed use building there. Farrell mentioned the need to communicate with CDOT, which would carry on current Mayor Connie Sullivan’s work in that area.
This led to the next issue of providing more lodging. Farrell stated that there are numerous wedding venues in town limits, but that the Town is losing revenue because there are few places to stay overnight. Angelo wanted to see more rooms, and felt the bed tax would bring in revenue, but only seasonally. Karavas felt hotels could be filled by year-round events, such as conferences and visitors from Denver coming to town for activities.
The recent increases in the mill levy and property taxes were an issue. Brakenridge gave statistics about how dramatically taxes have recently increased. It is a top priority for him. He said that increasing utility fees and property taxes hurts everyone and is unsustainable. Browning felt raising property taxes hurts businesses more because they pay a higher portion, and the Town needs to take a close look at the budget.
Regarding the single-hauler trash service proposal (also known as Pay As You Throw, or PAYT), everyone seemed to agree that it was a good idea to increase recycling, but that it should be left to the residents to vote on.
The forum was put on by the Lyons Chamber of Commerce, the Redstone Review, and the Lyons Recorder. The promoters would like to thank the following businesses for their contributions: Gateway Realty Group, Green Wave International, Lyons Dental, Stone Cup, and St. Vrain Market. Thanks also to Cate Richardson and the Lyons Leos for providing babysitting for the event.