A debate between candidates for Castle Rock Town Council focused on how the town should handle future development and the impacts of its growth, including homelessness and expanding services.
The Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce hosted four of the five town council candidates for a moderated debate on Oct. 6 at the Sturm Collaboration Campus. Running in District 5 is incumbent Caryn Johnson and candidates Caryn Ann Harlos and Max Brooks. In District 3, incumbent Kevin Bracken and candidate Dean Legatski are running.
Legatski told Colorado Community Media he was unable to attend the Chamber’s debate because he was traveling.
Multiple questions at the debate asked candidates how they think the town should handle continuing growth, whether that be already entitled properties or future development.
Bracken and Johnson, both incumbents, gave details about how the council has approached recent projects, such as requiring impact fees and working with developers to downsize projects.
Johnson said she is interested in finding a stable source of revenue for town services, such as police and fire, which are currently mostly funded by sales tax.
“While (impact fees) pay for capital improvement projects, they do not fund the additional increase in operations needed for our town services,” she said, noting that she doesn’t have a specific tax or fee in mind.
Brooks also said he would work with builders to make future growth align with the town, while noting that property rights limit how town council can respond.
Harlos said government should have a small role in development, but did note growth should pay for the additional burden on services.
“I can tell you that I’m a free market person. I do not believe in a great deal of central planning and I believe in government empowering people and getting out of their way.”
Harlos also pledged to never vote to raise taxes, saying Castle Rock’s tax burden is already too high.
Brooks said he agreed that the tax burden in Castle Rock is high and he’d be hesitant to increase it, but noted the importance of maintaining public safety at the same time.
“We need to make sure we have enough law enforcement on the streets and enough fire responders to take care of our growing community,” he said. “However, you’ve got to stay out of our pockets to do that. These things have always historically been paid by sales tax, so we cannot being going to the residents of Castle Rock and saying ‘hey, give us more money.’”
Johnson reiterated her view that public safety services need a more reliable revenue source than sales tax.
“As we know, sales tax revenue gets effected by economic downturns, economic downturns mean other projects in town get hit,” she said. “So finding a long-term solution to a stable revenue source for our police and firefighters is very important for our long-term security in town.”
Responding to questions about homelessness, Bracken, Brooks and Johnson were adamant that they didn’t support a shelter in town and said Castle Rock lacked the resources to support homelessness services.
Only Harlos said she would consider a shelter, particularly if a local religious organization or nonprofit wanted to develop and manage it. She also said she would support services for the homeless in town.
“In proportion to our size, we should have services for people in need,” she said. “I think we need to enable charities and private organizations to step in because the cold face of government is not the best answer for people in need.”
Candidates also answered questions about securing water for Castle Rock, changing the town ordinance on lewdness, and their thoughts on the redevelopment of downtown, as well as giving opening and closing statements.
To watch the entire debate, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUcD2kQyio4&feature=youtu.be.