The six candidates for the Durango City Council competed Tuesday for the final undecided voters in the third and last forum before the April 2 mail-in election to decide three seats on the five-member board.
Kristen Smith, an artist and server at Ska Brewing Co., suggested the contentious issue of accessory dwellings should go to a vote of the people instead of a vote by the new council later this summer.
The current council had originally planned to approve a new Land Use Development Code, which would permit accessory dwellings such as alley cottages, before as many as three new councilors are sworn into office April 16.
But officials decided to wait until later this summer so the public would have more opportunity to review and vet the 500-page document.
Smith, however, charged that there's a “lot of railroading going on with the code being changed against the will of the residents.”
Smith also suggested that the new LUDC would do away with height restrictions for buildings, but the revised code still keeps height restrictions.
Smith seemed to confuse the concept of urban infill, which is reusing land within a developed area, with the concept of building vertically to accommodate growth.
“To keep it beautiful downtown, I think it would be a good idea to keep our skyline visible,” Smith said. “I'm not sure where this infill is going to take us. If that means changing our code so we can keep building higher and higher, I think that takes away from the beauty of downtown. We do have empty spaces for rent. If we can make those appealing for entrepreneurs, I think that's a great idea, instead of building up and creating more infill.”
In other issues, Christina Rinderle, the only incumbent in the race, differed with other candidates about the need for more parking downtown, saying she would rather educate the public about multimodal opportunities, such as public transit, walking and bicycling.
She suggested motorists could find parking if they are willing to “walk a few blocks.”
Jordan Golson, a technology journalist, said he does not have a problem finding a space when he goes out to eat on Friday nights.
“I seem to have good parking karma,” he said.
Floyd Patterson, a roofing company owner and a confessed “king of parking tickets,” advocated for a downtown garage.
“I don't think it would solve all our problems, (but) we have talked about it forever. It would be nice get it going,” Patterson said.
On many issues in the forum sponsored by the Business Improvement District at the Henry Strater Theatre, candidates found much common ground, such as approving of the idea for the city to lease Buckley Park from Durango School District 9-R, keeping city and county offices downtown and that a private-public partnership was probably the best solution for building a convention center downtown.
Dean Brookie, an architect, said Durango was fortunate to have such a lively and vibrant downtown compared to most cities. He said he has always been an advocate for historical preservation, remembering when the downtown had a lot of fake store fronts and billboards.
Keith Brant, owner of Durango Premier Vacation Rentals, said all the candidates cared about Durango, but could not resist a good-natured jibe.
“I think everybody at this table has a passion for Durango except for Christina (Rinderle),” he said jokingly.