Tell us about yourself, your family and why you are running?
I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa of Dutch parents, grew up near Edmonton, Alberta, and have been a Colorado resident for over 30 years. After an undergraduate degree in molecular biology from CU Boulder and graduate work in computational biology at CU Denver, I ran my own software development company for 5 years before moving to enterprise software development. I’m currently a Chief Product Owner at Maxar, Inc. in Westminster, where I coordinate software development for a group that creates advanced products from our satellite imagery.
My two teenage daughters and I have been in Erie since 2007, where we enjoy the mountain views, the small-town feeling, and easy access to all that Denver and Boulder have to offer. I have been a Trustee for the Town of Erie since 2018; public service has been an incredibly rewarding, yet challenging endeavor. Erie is at yet another crossroads; I am running for Mayor of Erie because I believe we still have time to pivot from a bedroom community to a thriving self-sustaining city that is both economically and environmentally sustainable.
Why should the community put their trust in you and what will you do to unite the community, stopping the disrespect towards those with different opinions?
In my time as Trustee for the Town, I have held true to my beliefs and the platform upon which I ran, advocating above all else for our residents’ health, safety, and welfare. I’m the only Board member that has attended every Board of Trustees regular meeting since I was elected. I am a committed public servant. I stood alone in my opposition to the Crestone operator agreement because none of the provisions of the agreement were sufficient to prevent a recurrence of the noise and odor nuisances of previous operations. I have the conviction to stand up for my principles and our community. I am proud of the integrity I bring to the office of Trustee, and will continue to do the same as Mayor.
As a Trustee, I’ve already dealt with a number of contentious issues, from oil & gas to open carry at Town facilities and downtown parking. I look to the framework that we’ve already built with the Town Administrator for public engagement to proactively identify such issues and add extensive community involvement to issues that warrant it. However, we need to learn from our past missteps, such as with Crestone operator agreement and the engagement with the Republican Women of Weld. Clear communication, clear expectations, and open community involvement are all central to ensuring residents’ views are heard and incorporated into the Board’s decisions.
Oil & Gas
What is your plan for putting health and safety first, related to Oil & Gas operations in neighborhoods and near schools?
We must put an end to the practice of residential drilling; if only we treated unconventional oil & gas exploration like any other industry, the practice would cease to exist. I’ve testified at numerous COGCC hearings and legislative sessions, consistently calling for an end to residential drilling.
I believe in a just transition from fossil fuels to carbon-free renewables; I’ll vigorously support programs that ensure the workers that have given so much to heat our homes, fuel our cars, and ensure our energy independence can transfer their skills to other industries.
What is your plan for attracting new businesses such as: restaurants, retail, centralized grocery store, and service, that are not fast food or dental offices, allowing residents to put their money back into Erie, rather than neighboring towns?
Developers of all sizes still face significant challenges with bringing projects to Erie; between frustrations at the Planning department, an overly-prescriptive Unified Development Code, and excessive fees, it’s time to overhaul how we bring development to Erie. When we show success in our implementation of the Town Center master plan to start in on two of the five parcels this year, we will use this model to attract additional unique, place-making developments to the Town.
The Town Center master plan includes 255,000 sf of retail commercial space, 76,000 sf of live-work space, as well as a 46,000 sf grocery store. While the project is ambitious in scope, it represents 2% of our planning area and one year’s worth of growth. With the addition of Westerly to the east and 9 Mile to the west, we’re finally on our way to weaning ourselves from a revenue reliance on residential building permits.
What is your position on Open Space, with respect to allowing developers to pay fees to reduce it and the town purchasing more Open Space?
Fee in lieu agreements should only be used under special circumstances for small infill developments where an open space dedication would render the project infeasible. In the vast majority of cases, open space dedications and neighborhood parks should be incorporated within a development to ensure residents have nearby opportunities to enjoy these amenities.
Town staff constantly monitors the real estate market for open space acquisition opportunities, bolstered by a Trails & Natural Areas Fund that expects to see $2MM in contributions for 2020 from general property tax alone. The same fund was the majority source of funds for the Wise Farm open space acquisition, Erie’s largest ever. While I too was a bit shocked at the price tag, this acquisition is another key step in preserving what’s left of Erie’s rural character for future generations.
What is your plan to grow the town’s infrastructure to support the growing population and resulting increased traffic?
Traffic and the lack of regional transportation infrastructure is one of the top issues facing Erie and the surrounding municipalities. Given state and federal gas tax rates upon which CDOT relies haven’t changed since 1991, only $209MM is available for local projects for the entire state each year. We’re already significantly constrained by traffic on SH7 and Highway 52 with no near-term projects on the horizon to alleviate congestion through these crucial corridors. As Mayor, I will continue to explore public-private partnerships with developers and neighboring communities to build out our transportation infrastructure to the vision set forth in the various transportation master plans.
A robust and reliable public transportation network between Erie, Denver, and Boulder is another key aspect to solving our transportation woes, but has similar funding issues. Between RTD Fastracks delays on the North Metro Rail Line, recent proposals to cut back RTD JUMP service between Erie and Boulder, and an analysis showing the SH7/I-25 interchange reaching a failure state in less than 10 years, our membership in the State Highway 7 Coalition is crucial to advocating for our residents’ needs. As Mayor, I’ll aggressively advocate for funding these projects with state and federal resources where possible.
View the full ELIFE candidate issue at https://issuu.com/trishaventker/docs/elife_candidate_2020