Throughout the Parker Chamber of Commerce’s town council debate, candidates largely agreed on the direction of the town with the exception of a few key topics: Mainstreet, development and RTD.
There are five candidates running for three spots on the town council. Three of them — Anne Barrington, Joshua Rivero and Cheryl Poage — are incumbents. Brandi Wilks and Brian Carruthers would be newcomers to the council.
Barrington, Rivero and Wilks mostly aligned in their perspectives with Poage offering diverging opinions on some topics and Carruthers bringing an alternate focus.
During the event held at the PACE Center, each candidate was given individual questions and then other candidates had the chance to weigh in using one of their limited “rebuttal cards.”
Barrington, Rivero and Wilks agreed that the town’s focus should be on completing the My Mainstreet project, which considers the best way for the community to develop five town-owned properties downtown.
“In order to have the rest of Parker become a thriving community, we need to have our central hub be very strong,” Barrington said.
A plan for the parcels is in the process of being approved by the town council after local developer Confluence Companies presented their concept earlier this year. The town approved a sale agreement and will soon hear a development agreement before the deal is final.
Poage said she was concerned about the height of some of the proposed buildings and about any building blocking the view of the PACE Center. She also said she wants the Pine Curve property to have a park or open space.
“We don’t need a lot of commercial there,” she said. “Some commercial there would be great. We have to be concerned about building heights there as well because we have a lot of residential areas that have built for that view.”
Rivero rebutted Poage’s comments, saying residents have spoken when they responded to a polls and other outreach efforts by the town.
“You want to see breweries, restaurants, farmers' markers,” he said. “I’m tired of the museum of dirt, I’m tired of looking at five fields in my downtown, it’s time to move on.”
He added that when the PACE Center was designed it was intended to have a complementary building in front of it.
There was also discussion of how much of the town’s resources should go toward the downtown area versus other nearby business districts.
Wilks said after the Mainstreet project is completed, the town should then focus on other business areas throughout town.
Poage said she feels the town has failed to focus on other districts. She also said she wants to see more high-end jobs brought to the town.
“We need to bring in commercial activity and industrial activity that can produce those jobs,” she said.
Carruthers added he supports responsible growth and lowering taxes for businesses.
Wilks and Barrington, both real estate agents, spoke about their experiences with folks trying to move to Parker who aren’t able to because of the high cost of living.
“We have clients who are wonderful people, they are retired and they want to be near their grandkids who live in Parker,” Wilks said. “On a fixed income, they’re not able to do that. It’s unattainable to them.”
Both emphasized that there’s a difference between working to provide housing that’s more affordable and providing Section 8 housing.
“Affordable housing where we can have grandma and grandpa come living here is something that as a town we need to address,” Wilks said.
Poage said she has also seen people unable to move back to Parker and emphasized the role of the Douglas County Housing Partnership.
Throughout the debate, Poage also emphasized she wants to see more for-purchase properties rather than rentals.
“People are invested in community then,” she said. Carruthers agreed.
Wilks brought up that the town’s master plan calls for more multi-family housing and that residents have made clear they don’t want it near their single-family homes.
“Where are you going to put it? It makes sense for it to be downtown,” she said.
After a question to Barrington about the town’s revenue strategy, some candidates gave their thoughts on the town’s taxes.
“I’m not a fan of increasing taxes but I do think we need to protect the revenue we do have and encourage more commercial growth so we can keep the tax base growing,” Barrington said. “Sales tax is what funds this town,”
Rivero agreed, saying he thinks the town can grow its tax base by simply getting people to spend more money in the town.
“We need people to have more options to spend their money in Parker and invest in their community,” he said.
He also mentioned his hope that the town won’t try to remove its grocery tax.
“It would bankrupt this town. It is a significant portion of our sales tax,” he said.
Mayor Jeff Toborg has voiced interest in removing the tax.
In a discussion of RTD, Rivero and Barrington both said they want to work with the agency to find new ways to serve their community without leaving the district — another idea supported by Toborg.
“It’s no secret RTD doesn’t work here in Parker,” Barrington said. “I know there are options for RTD to give vouchers to us instead of getting on a bus.”
Poage supported pulling out of RTD and developing a local transit system.
“I don’t want to keep giving them more and more money for nothing and that’s what’s happening,” she said. “We need to fight to take us out.”
Carruthers, who owns a construction company and is a Denver Fire Department lieutenant, focused on the importance of retaining law enforcement, firefighters and teachers.
During their final comments, each candidate provided their main goal for their term if elected.
Poage mentioned expanding the Parker cemetery and working with other governments to add a competitive pool and an ice rink in the county.
Carruthers said he wants to support small businesses and be a liaison for the residents. Wilks said she wants to increase all the positive parts of Parker.
“The biggest thing for me is how do we create that hometown feel that we all love in a bigger way.” she said.
Barrington said she wants to focus on improving traffic through road expansion projects and a traffic-light program that adjusts based on real-time information.
Rivero said he believes the My Mainstreet project benefits the community most and he will feel like he served his community if they can complete it.
The full debate was recorded and is available on the Parker Chamber of Commerce Facebook page.
Election day is Nov. 8.