Dave McHenry wants the city to get back to basics such as paving alleys and fixing sidewalks.
“Once we accomplish the simple things, we can go back and do the glitzy things,” he said during a recent debate.
McHenry, a retired landscape architect, urged the audience to join him on his mission of fiscal responsibility.
He is one of five candidates competing for three seats in the April 4 city election.
Paving alleys would improve air quality and the quality of stormwater runoff in the Animas River, he said in an interview. Unpaved alleys increase the water turbidity and degrade fish habitat.
“I think there is a compelling need to finish the alleys,” he said.
The city budgeted $50,000 to fix sidewalks in 2017 as part of a 50-50 matching grant program it offers to residents. But McHenry believes more money could be set aside for sidewalks, and paving would make the town more accessible for those with disabilities. He would also like to see more lighting installed downtown to increase safety.
Durango’s dark skies ordinance regulates how lights are designed, not the number of lights installed, said director of city operations Levi Lloyd.
Next year, Lloyd would like to upgrade to LED lights downtown so they will be brighter, he said.
Other simple tasks in McHenry’s view include putting gravel down on the Dog Park trail and paving the Dog Park parking lot.
To help address the need for more housing in town, McHenry wants to see areas designated for tiny home development to help residents get out of rental housing and into a home of their own with a yard. “I think it’s homeownership that’s the tough nut to crack,” he said. He also would like to see secondary rental units allowed in more areas of town.
As a founding member of Citizens for Healthy Established Neighborhoods, he advocated for a city law that requires a property owner to live in either the house or the smaller secondary housing unit if they want to rent one of them. The rule keeps more homeowners living in Durango neighborhoods.
More dense housing along north Main Avenue and Camino del Rio and employer-provided housing could also help ease the housing shortage, he said. He supports a habitability code that would ensure rental homes have safe exits in case of a fire, safe forms of heat and meet other basic standards, he said. He noted that would take a few years to roll out and would require a dedicated code enforcement officer.
The city gets phone calls about once or twice per month about home maintenance problems, mostly from renters, Code Enforcement Officer Steve Barkley said. It is a fairly infrequent complaint compared to snow and ice removal, he said.
Like his fellow candidates, McHenry supports Durango Transit, and said he would consider reallocating city money to pay for the service.
Asking voters to reallocate the 2005 quarter-cent tax that pays for city open space, parks and trails development and maintenance could be another option for transit and infrastructure, he said.
“I think we need to revisit that and reset our priorities,” he said.
After the defeat of a property tax measure to pay for a new terminal for Durango-La Plata County Airport, McHenry believes voters said “no” to moving the terminal to the east side of the runway, and it is time for the city to look at other options.
The airport needs to be upgraded, but it can be done on the west side of the terminal, he said. For example, the temporary tent that provides additional waiting space should be replaced, he said.
McHenry does not see economic development as a city priority because it is responsible for so many other vital services such as water, sewer, land-use planning, trash service and recreation.
“Durango is such a desirable place to be and do business, I am not certain the city needs to do much in the way of economic development – just not get in the way of it,” he said.