Questionnaire: Metro Housing Coalition

Please tell us about yourself and why you are interested in running (or running for another term) for elected office in Erie?
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, Cellular, and Developmental 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.

What do you identify as the top three issues facing Erie and how do you think they should they be addressed?
Erie has seen explosive residential growth in the last 20 years without corresponding commercial growth to create an economically sustainable municipality. Our first top issue is the lack of a sustaining commercial tax base required to support the construction and maintenance of our growing infrastructure. With competition from neighboring municipalities, the out-of-the-box thinking that brought DPZ CoDesign and the Town Center project to life are key to closing this gap by bringing together unique commercial opportunities with diverse housing options.

The second top issue facing our community is that of unconventional oil & gas exploration in our communities, pitting heavy industrial activity against residents who endure excessive noise, poor air quality, and increased traffic during drilling activities in their neighborhoods. While SB19-181 gives municipalities some additional land use authority and charges the COGCC with prioritizing health and safety, current regulations are insufficient to properly protect residents. If we treated oil & gas like every other industry, the practice of residential drilling would cease to exist. As Mayor, I’ll work with neighboring municipalities to effect the necessary changes at the local and state levels to ensure our residents are protected, and work with industry and developers to set the clear expectation that hydraulic fracturing operations are not compatible with residential development.

Traffic and the lack of regional transportation infrastructure is the third top issue in Erie. 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.

There are a number of ways local policies, codes, regulations and fees add to the overall cost of housing.  Also, when development occurs, there are a number of economic and benefits regarding housing supply that result. What role does residential development play in your vision for the future of Erie and what do you believe is the appropriate way for the town to guide and/or manage growth?
To our detriment, the Town’s revenue growth has been disproportionately driven by residential building permits. In conjunction with a healthy commercial tax base, I’d like to see more diverse housing products offered in future developments that expand the availability of affordable/attainable housing and live-work opportunities for those that aren’t ideally suited to a single-family home. Rather than placing restrictions on growth, the Town should encourage the right kind of growth to bring more innovative projects like the Town Center and Westerly to Erie. Our engagement with DPZ CoDesign has been key for us to pivot to a more sustainable, diverse housing inventory.

Affordable housing has become a major policy discussion in many jurisdictions as builders try to keep up with housing demand.  Please share your thoughts on affordable housing and any policy ideas you have on this subject.
As a Trustee for the Town, I’ve been disappointed that we haven’t seen more development proposals come before the Board that include true affordable housing options. At best, they’ve been described as “attainable.” Our current Unified Development Code has not allowed for the diversity of development that would include affordable housing as a financially-viable component. I’ve been inspired by our engagement with DPZ CoDesign and the developers at the Town Center project; the new urbanism principles applied at this and other sites will allow for a thriving, diverse community that will support several affordable housing options, from a tiny home village to compound lots and live-work situations.

Construction defect laws continue to play a big role in leaving a hole in our affordable housing options. Condo construction is severely limited in the State of Colorado and the effects of how this happened over the last decade is now part of the reason affordable housing is such an issue. Please tell us your thoughts about how you think this policy issue should be addressed at the local and state levels, so that Colorado can have condos built here, as they are across the rest of our nation.
CDARA has had long-lasting negative impacts for condo development in Colorado. While the Vallagio v Metro Inc. Colorado Supreme Court case and House Bill 17-1279 made some progress towards re-establishing some balance between the rights of condo owners and developers, the pendulum has not yet stopped swinging. I’ll be watching the debate around SB20-138 closely, as I believe this issue is best addressed at the state level.

Given the recent adoption of a limited residential growth initiative in Lakewood and a limited growth initiative for the Front Range that has been filed with the State, please explain your thoughts and position on limited residential growth policies.
As I mentioned above, “rather than placing restrictions on growth, the Town should encourage the right kind of growth to bring more innovative projects like the Town Center and Westerly to Erie.”

New or infill development often creates controversy in surrounding neighborhoods and communities. How do you look at these types of situations and what do you think is a successful model for community and developer interaction?
The Town Center charrette facilitated by DPZ CoDesign was an overwhelming success for community engagement; several hundred residents attended the final presentation at the Erie Community Center, and many others were engaged with the team during the week of the charrette. As Mayor, I look forward to similar levels of engagement with the community and developers around areas of critical importance.

If elected, how would you involve and work with the home building industry?
The Town Center project has opened an entirely new development model for Erie; rather than being artificially constrained by a brittle UDC, I’d love to continue to work with home builders to bring innovative, place-making developments to our Town. I’m proud of the positive relationships I’ve fostered, and am eager to continue challenging the industry to bring their best to Erie.