Candidates field questions during a chamber forum
Candidates for Cañon City mayor and District 2 City Council fielded questions Wednesday night during the first of two forums hosted by the Chamber of Commerce at City Hall.
Mayoral candidates, incumbent Tony Greer and former mayor Harry “Benny” Johnson, and District 2 candidates, Kevin Ditmore, Bettye “Gail” Palmgren and incumbent Jon Stone, took turns answering questions submitted by the audience. Michael De Laurentis announced Monday his intent to withdraw from the District 2 race because of his work schedule.
Charlie Bell of the Chamber of Commerce asked candidates if they consider the current regulatory climate necessary for today’s communities or discouraging to business and subdivision growth.
said as a Realtor, he sees about one-third of Department of Corrections employees looking to purchase a home choose to move to Pueblo West rather than Cañon City.
“One of the reasons that we lose them is because in Pueblo West, they can buy the same house for about $30,000 less and the reason is the cost of development and building,” he said. “If I can get a building permit in Pueblo West in 10 days, and it takes me six weeks to get one in Cañon City, that’s another deterrent.”
Greer said those are unintended consequences of policies that were well intentioned but created the “worse-case scenario.” He said the housing market is rebounding in other communities quicker than it is in Cañon City, and a long, hard look needs to be taken at every regulation that has been created during the past 10 years regarding building and development.
“We need to sharpen our pencils and find out what we really, really need to have and what would just be nice to have when we can afford it,” he said, “and really do what the working families in our community have to do and just take a look at what really is optional.
“Right now, it’s all mandatory, and you bet it drives people (out), and I see it every single day.”
if there are problems with regulations, they should be brought to the attention of the city administrator. He said the Ad Hoc committee is bringing some ideas forward.
“That’s what needs to be done, you can’t just sit back and say ‘we’re over regulated,’ ‘we’re not business friendly,'” Johnson said. “That’s negative. If you talk negative, negative is going to happen — I will assure you of that. We need to work on it, and these are ways to get it up in the front and start to work on it.”
Bell asked the candidates how they would like to see growth and jobs promoted in the area.
Ditmore said the “Over The River” project will be a unique opportunity to showcase the community.
“I think we should be prepared, use that as an opportunity to make Cañon City look its best and maybe (people will want to move here or spend more time here),” he said. “I think if the estimates hold, there are going to be a lot of people come through this town, and I think that’s a huge opportunity for us to try to get a percentage of them to stick around.”
Palmgren said residents first should drive U.S. 50 and take a look at what visitors will see before OTR brings outsiders to town.
“That is the backs of our buildings, our alleys decaying,” she said. “We should do something we can start now that’s not so expensive that we couldn’t afford it in any shape or form — there are improvements we can do as far as aesthetics to look at.”
Stone said that while he does not wish to see no growth, he is glad that Cañon City did not grow in double digits before the last census.
“I’d like to see us find a way to return to that slow growth — what we were seeing before this economic downtown is what I wanted to see continue into the future,” he said.
Stone also feels there is not enough low-income housing available.
Also during the forum, Art Welch of the library/museum board gave a presentation on the proposed library expansion project that residents will vote on the Nov. 1 ballot.
The next forum hosted by the Chamber of Commerce is 7 p.m. Sept. 28 at City Hall, 128 Main St., focusing on candidates for District 4 and At-Large seats.
Courtesy of Canon City Daily Record, original story here: http://www.canoncitydailyrecord.com/ci_18950576