Mark Hebert

Telluride Town Council candidate Mark Hebert. (Courtesy photo)

Each week leading up to Election Day, Nov. 2, the Daily Planet will publish Telluride Town Council candidate answers to a questionnaire compiled by Planet editorial staff. They will be published in the order in which they were received.

 

Why are you running (incumbents, again)?

To improve the quality and quantity of employee housing in Telluride. I am tired of seeing good people forced to leave due to the housing crisis. I have significant student housing development experience, and there is a high correlation between student housing and employee housing. However, more experienced student housing developers tend to use land more efficiently — more beds per acre and higher quality living conditions, due to competition. 

I have diverse experience within multiple industries that make Telluride function, and understand the impact town council decisions have on residents and businesses. I have the necessary skill set, and am compelled to help provide quality housing to my Telluride friends/family. 

Housing. What ideas/solutions will you bring to the table?

In addition to my student housing development experience, I tend to think outside the box. I have a patent, and won an innovation in real estate competition. There are creative ways and floor plans to add more beds per acre to properties targeted for employee housing within the town. 

Similar to the Sunnyside development, there are other nearby properties that could be annexed by the town. However, we aren’t the only entity within the region that needs to be responsible for housing the people making this community function. In my experience, there are proven mechanisms other towns have used to be more involved in developments in the nearby communities. 

There are numerous possibilities with multiple moving parts and partners, making the process very complex. We need council members with my experience to help navigate these complexities quickly and efficiently. 

Are short-term rentals a problem, or not, in your view? What are your thoughts on the two town ballot issues that seek to limit business licenses (and other measures) before the voters? Do you have a property you rent short-term?

There is more demand to visit Telluride than the supply of hotel rooms. Short-term rentals increase some of that supply, allowing more people to experience the magic Telluride possesses. Unfortunately, in some cases, short-term rentals take that supply from people working in this town. However, I’ve had more friends displaced by people purchasing homes and remodeling them into their retirement home. 

I believe short-term rentals need more legislation, limitations and fees, but I think they are an easy scapegoat and distraction. We need to build more employee housing, and more housing that allows pets. 

I support ballot measure 2D, because it is a true cap on the existing number of short-term rentals. Unlike 300, which actually cuts the number of short-term rentals. Ballot measure 300 uses a lottery system, every year in February, to decide who gets to put their property on AirBnB or VRBO for that year. Someone might let employees rent their property after losing their ability to short-term rent. However, if they win the lottery the following year, those employees will need to find a new place to live, in February - not an ideal time to find housing in Telluride. 

Ballot measure 300 has great intentions, but is too aggressive. It will end up hurting more employees than it helps, and I do not support it. 

I live in Shandoka. I do not own any short-term rental properties. 

Do you currently serve on any town or nonprofit boards/commissions/prior experience as an elected official?

While I have worked with elected officials in the past with rezoning, building permits, etc, I have never been an elected official. I bring a fresh perspective, with the necessary experience to help fix the biggest problem facing this community, more employee housing.

During tax season, I regularly volunteered with the nonprofit Ladder Up to prepare tax returns for low income individuals and families. Numbers, finance and housing development are skills of mine, and I would gladly donate my time to help those that need it. 

What is your long-term vision for your community?

An employee housing waitlist that is under 3 months.

What is marketing’s role in Telluride’s future? What do you think is appropriate/effective for our community?

The Telluride Tourism Board has been doing a fantastic job, especially with the recent uncertainty relating to COVID. It is run by very capable and experienced individuals. Much of their success goes unnoticed or underappreciated by the community. A recent third party evaluation of the tourism board said as much. 

They have been shifting their focus from advertising to solving/handling the problems that arise from attracting so many tourists. To me, this is evidence of how great of a job they have been doing. I do not envy the incredibly difficult job the tourism board has, and I support everything they have done thus far. 

What’s working in town government/what’s not?

The public is very involved and educated here. It is an unusual strength Telluride has compared to other, typically larger, communities I am used to working with. 

Town Council is doing a great job, but it needs more development experience to maximize the number of beds and quality of living for the money and land taxpayers are investing. 

Tell us a little about yourself … skier, day job, family, etc.

One of my first memories is of standing on my mother’s skis while skiing down a small hill in Illinois. I have been skiing (or boarding) every year since. I am a much better skier than a boarder, so I stick to skiing now. As a freshman in college, my brother and I drove out to Jackson Hole, where we befriended some locals who convinced us moving to a ski town could be the best decision we make in our lives. 

Living in a ski town became part of my life goal. After graduating from college with four majors, I went into commercial banking, where I learned how to assess the positive/negative impact various changes could have on a multitude of industries and regional economies. The 2008 recession sent me into a more real estate focused role, initially finishing up projects that were abandoned in the middle of construction. I ended up getting involved in everything from golf courses to student housing and hog farms to server farms all over the country. 

I caught the entrepreneurship bug from the rest of my family, and left to start a company. My mother started a successful business in Chicago — she was nominated for entrepreneur of the year a few times. My father started a home and office remodeling company in Dallas. My brother started a restaurant in Chicago, which he thankfully sold before COVID.

I eventually secured investments for the company I started. When it came to putting in the 2nd round of funding for development, they seemed to get cold feet. After they backed out of the 3rd development opportunity, I decided to take a break and be a “ski bum” for the winter. 

I worked for Telluride Sports, renting skis, running the ice rink at the Madeline, and eventually an assistant manager of one of their stores. When summer came, I started working at Smugglers, where I eventually moved up to general manager. 

I am very familiar with the struggles of finding housing in Telluride. My first winter here I lived in Ridgway, but the lease expired in April because the owners regularly would do short-term rentals in the summer. Finding myself without housing, I decided to camp in various dispersed camping spots around Telluride until I could find a place to live. After camping for 7 months, a friend had a roommate that was moving out, and I finally had a place to live in Telluride! 

The barrier to entry for moving into Telluride is very high. There are a lot of great people that have gone through similar experiences before they found housing, and unfortunately some of them are being asked to make that sacrifice again due to a lack of employee housing. We need more employee housing to make sure people don’t have to leave, unless they want to.