Top candidates for mayor and trustee answered questions about the Marshall Fire takeover and how best to support businesses and residents at a candidates forum Wednesday night.
Two mayoral candidates, current Pro-Tem Mayor Mark Lacis, and written candidate, Gladys Forshee, attended the Face the Chamber event at the Superior Community Center, while seven of the eight board candidates were present, including Stephanie Miller, Jason Serbu, Jenn Kaaoush, Stephanie Schader, Bob McCool, Michael Neustedter and outgoing administrator Neal S. Shah. Director nominee Mike Foster was not present but was represented by a pre-written introduction and closing statement.
The majority of questions posed to candidates at the Superior Chamber of Commerce event focused on business growth and retention, recovery from the Marshall fire, housing and development in Superior.
The chamber said that after the Marshall fire, resources for small businesses and home businesses at Superior were limited to help them get back up and running. The chamber asked Shah what kind of programs and solutions he would like to introduce to solve this problem.
Shah said the Marshall fire caused a ‘blind spot’ and the community didn’t know how much money they had and didn’t feel comfortable applying for grants, but they should have looked for funds extra for companies that need it.
“Home-based businesses are your future retail businesses and if we don’t foster that, we’re missing a great opportunity to have another business to start here,” Shah said. “Rebuilding is critically important because if we bring residents back, we bring customers back. Going forward, I want to have a really solid conversation with home businesses to understand what their needs are. »
Mayoral candidate Lacis reiterated the importance of taking care of small businesses and home-based businesses in Superior. He said being aware of property taxes, which are disproportionately borne by commercial users, will be a great way to attract and support these businesses.
“When we’re trying to fill the vacancies we have, we need to look at our property taxes holistically and see how they compare to neighboring towns,” Lacis said. “These taxes could be the reason some companies have decided to go elsewhere, so we need to make sure we don’t deter anyone from investing here.”
Many questions focused on whether Superior should invite more businesses, and if so, what type, or whether the city should focus on housing.
Jason Serbu, one of three contestants who lost his home in the Marshall Fire, said Superior was still a dormitory community.
“We have to decide what kind of city we want to be,” Serbu said. “We want a real active downtown, with an engaged core and a really good mix of retail and commercial in addition to residential, or we’ll always just be a dormitory community. We need to hold developers accountable for creating retail and commercial space.
Neustedter, who also lost his home in the Marshall Fire, said one of his main running points was “place-making”. He hopes to spur development to create areas in Superior where multiple needs can be met, instead of having to travel to different areas or even towns to meet residents’ needs. As for Superior’s “brand,” he sees the city as an “outdoor mecca” on the Front Range.
“What brought my family to Superior were the great family values and great outdoor activities,” Neustedter said. “I think we have a chance to mark this community. It’s great mountain views, cute cafes, fun restaurants, and a place people can bring their families and feel safe.”
Regarding the development of downtown Superior, mayoral candidate Forshee said she believes there is room for improvement in the downtown area.
“It’s a shame that the city center was not created according to the wishes of the inhabitants,” she said.
Miller said the city should focus on creating incentives to help fill vacancies downtown and think outside the box when deciding what kinds of businesses should locate there.
“I think we should look at diversifying the types of businesses we have to make sure they’re viable and attractive to residents,” Miller said. “It’s not just about getting businesses there, but making sure there’s a crowd to support them.”
Schader said she would like to see a more collaborative effort with the board and owners of Superior Marketplace and Downtown.
“It hasn’t always been as collaborative as we would like,” Schader said. “It will be an evolutionary process, starting with an olive branch and asking them to help us understand what they need from this land and how we can involve them in this community. Seeking redevelopment opportunities for what works for both of us. »
McCool said from work he has done with the planning commission that he feels Superior is running out of office space.
“I feel like daytime activation is really important,” McCool said. “We are all going to work elsewhere to change the dynamics of this city, so there are places where we can work here, live here and engage here, it’s huge. The combination of the type of development that we bring is important right now.
Kaaoush addressed the single issue related to affordable housing, saying it must be a “resident-run business”.
“My biggest priority is to bring home those displaced after the fire, but I think we can walk and chew gum at the same time,” Kaaoush said. “We need to understand if there’s anything we can do as a community to accommodate a development or a project, but I think it needs to fit what the residents who are already here also want to see.”
The complete recording of the forum will be published on the Facebook page of the Superior Chamber of Commerce, facebook.com/SuperiorCOChamberas soon as possible.