Photo by John F. Russell
Kyle Pietras stands along Lincoln Avenue with the vintage bicycle he uses to commute. He plans to run for the at-large seat on the Steamboat Springs City Council this November on a pro-growth, pro-business platform.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
- District 1 (four years): Cari Hermacinski (at-large incumbent, council president pro tem), Kevin Bennett (former council president)
- District 2 (four years): Kenny Reisman, Ken Solomon
- District 3 (four years): Walter Magill (District 3 incumbent)
- At-large (two years): Jim Engelken (former councilman), Kyle Pietras
- Not up for election: Scott Myller (District 1), Meg Bentley (District 2), Jon Quinn (District 3)
- Leaving council: Loui Antonucci (District 2, council president, term-limited), Steve Ivancie (District 1, term-limited)
Clear differences of opinion are emerging between the candidates for the Steamboat Springs City Council's at-large seat.
While candidate Jim Engelken has leveled heavy criticisms against the current governing body - which he thinks caters too much to the development and real estate community - and opposes the planned annexation of Steamboat 700, Kyle Pietras is an unabashed pro-growth and pro-business candidate. He also is a political newcomer while Engelken previously served on City Council from 1995 to 2001.
An avid mountain biker, Pietras cycled to a Monday morning interview on a rusty town bike. He described himself as "a Steamboat guy" and said his political views are shaped by what he thinks needs to be done to ensure Steamboat stays Steamboat. Pietras is originally from Massachusetts and moved here in 1995.
"It's harder to live here now. I want my children to have children and be able to live here," said Pietras, who owns a small landscaping business. "Jim's been pretty consistent through his whole career. It's admirable how involved he's stayed over the years. Voters know what they're getting with Jim. I'm kind of a realist. We need tourists. We need workers working. We need growth in town. Being against growth, it's just not realistic."
Pietras formerly worked for the city's Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department and the Steamboat II water and sanitation district. He said friends encouraged him to run.
"It seems nobody else wants to step up and do it, so I'll do it," said Pietras, 39, who has a wife and two young daughters. "It just kind of popped up one night, and so I went for it."
Pietras said Steamboat 700 will provide housing for Steamboat's lower- and middle-income families and also create jobs.
"A lot of our retail businesses are hurting right now. Restaurants too," he said. "(Steamboat 700) is going to bring a lot of money in town. : I've been able to stay busy, but I know a lot of guys who haven't. : There's an opportunity to make our town a little more self-sustained."
Also in contrast with Engelken, Pietras said he supports the direction City Council is moving on affordable housing - allowing developers to pay a fee or couple a fee with a real estate transfer tax instead of building deed-restricted units - and supports council's decision to amend zone districts and design standards at the base of Steamboat Ski Area to allow buildings as tall as 105 feet.
"You look at any ski town in the country, and that's their height," Pietras said. "They're all like that."
However, Pietras also supports an ordinance working its way through the city now that would prevent developers from demolishing property at the base area until they receive an approved plan for redevelopment. The ordinance was spurred by the demolition of Ski Time Square and Thunderhead Lodge and subsequent claims by developers with The Atira Group that they may need as many as five years to break ground on redevelopment projects.
"I think that's a really good idea. Everyone's bummed that we've lost Dos (Amigos) and a lot of bars that we had here forever," Pietras said. "It's just a bad scene. : It was more efficient to do it the way they did, but I think they could have probably gone one section at a time."