Durango City Council candidates outlined their views on development fees, infrastructure and homelessness, and addressed some nontraditional questions at a forum Wednesday hosted by the Durango Chamber of Commerce.
Tom Eskew, Dave McHenry, Chris Bettin, Melissa Youssef and incumbent Councilor Dean Brookie are competing for three seats in the April 4 election. Mail-in ballots will go out March 18.
Most of the candidates agreed the council should address Durango’s problems, such as housing and visible panhandling, but differed on strategy.
Brookie, Bettin and Youssef said they would support a real estate transaction fee that would go into a fund to support affordable housing.
Bettin said the city could consider nominal fees or percentages, but the council would have to be cautious about implementing them.
McHenry and Eskew did not support such fees.
“I think those actually distort the market,” Eskew said.
When asked what fees paid by developers to pay for infrastructure they might reduce or eliminate, four candidates – McHenry, Bettin, Youssef and Brookie – said the city might consider increasing fees to support transit, storm drainage improvements and other projects.
Brookie said the city also must propose creative solutions.
“It’s not fair to impose it all on developers,” he said.
Eskew stood apart, saying he would consider reducing or eliminating road impact fees.
To solve the housing shortage, the candidates presented a slew of tactics.
Brookie proposed deed-restricted affordable housing to ensure that, once created, it could not be sold for another purpose.
Allowing tiny house development and allowing large employers to provide housing could help, McHenry said.
Bettin would allow more secondary units and higher density in town, and supports the development of multi-family projects such as the Lumien Apartments on 32nd Street, which are set aside for low-income families.
Youssef said she would encourage growth in Three Springs, which can accommodate 2,000 homes, and supports greater infill in town.
Eskew said the council should let the market drive housing and that he would oppose deed restrictions.
On panhandling downtown, candidates’ focuses shifted from police presence, which was a main emphasis during the last debate, to finding other solutions.
In addition to supporting the Business Improvement District’s efforts to encourage donations to charity and not to panhandlers and its ambassador program, Youssef proposed requiring panhandlers to get a license so the city would know who they are.
The city could also potentially use the licensing to keep panhandlers away from schools and ATMs, she said.
McHenry would like to see more lighting and rules preventing people from obstructing the sidewalk.
Jack Llewellyn, executive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce, asked the candidates a series of nontraditional questions that did not require the candidates to explain themselves.
When asked to choose between giving more money to code enforcement or organic parks, all but Eskew picked code enforcement.
When required to give a thumbs up or down to electric bikes on the Animas River Trail, all but McHenry gave them the go-ahead.
Llewellyn also asked all the candidates to give the city a letter grade. Brookie gave it an A, while all the others gave it varying levels of a B.