Hayden's Indefensible "Standards of Approval"


    The following letter was sent to the Hayden City Council in response to a memo that was written by city officials attempting to Justify the 2021 updates to Hayden's Standards of Approval.   As in previous cases where city officials have defended changes to Zoning Regulations that blatantly favor developers, the legal reasoning is poor.   This refutation makes clear that the persons who crafted the 2021 Standards of Approval were not objectively serving the residents of Hayden, but were changing laws with the specific goal of reducing the means by which Hayden homeowners can resist densification.  

    The text of the City's Memo on SOAs is HERE.    Side by side comparisons of the current and previous Standards of Approval for Zone Map Amendments and Special Permits are at the bottom of this article.  


    This is a response to the September 30th Memo addressed to city council members, defending the recent changes to Hayden’s “Standards of Approval” (SOA) for Zone Map Amendments and Special Use Permits. 

    The Memo justified the SOA changes to Hayden’s Zoning Regulations, based on three factors. We will address each of these considerations below.

    • To “address inconsistencies between our code and state code”, [Pg 7] 
    • To “reflect the Supreme Court’s stance on how the decision can be determined without it becoming arbitrary and capricious” [Pg 7], and
    • To remove redundancy, [Pg 5] “if the standard was addressed in the code in another section, or within an adopted policy or standard, or would be addressed through the development of the site, it was removed from the standards.”


    The first few pages of the SOA Memo cite several statutes from Idaho’s Local Land Use and Planning Code (Title 67, Chapter 25).  Among them were: 67-6508, 67-6511 (2)(a-b), [zone map amendments], and 67-6512 [special use permits]. 

    We have included the 2005 version of these sections of the LLUPA code as attachments to this message.  The reason for doing this is to prove that NONE of the Idaho statutes referenced above have changed in over 20 years.   This can be checked by doing a line-to-line comparison between the 2005 version, and the current Land Use Statutes

    We are pointing this out because the memo infers that Hayden’s previous SOAs for Zone Map amendments and Special Use  permits [see below] were somehow inadequate, and there was a compelling reason to rewrite them.     Page three of the SOA Memo States:

    “Based on the Requirements of Idaho State Statutes it was determined that the above standards did not address the requirements that the city must address per Idaho State Statute, and as a result, the code section was rewritten.”

    NO SPECIFICS WERE GIVEN to indicate which State Statutes necessitated a change in Hayden’s zoning regulations.  This is not surprising since the 2016 version was updated specifically to incorporate state standards, which have not changed in decades.  Nothing has changed in state law that would necessitate a complete rewrite of Hayden’s SOAs, and there is no basis for claiming that complying with zoning laws were the basis of the 2021 revisions.


    On page 7, the Memo says Hayden’s SOA’s were changed in order to “Better Reflect the Supreme Court’s Stance” and to avoid “arbitrary and capricious zoning decisions”.  However, the only Supreme court case mentioned in the Memo was “Bone vs. City of Lewiston” (1984), and in that case, The Supreme Court held that Comp Plan map designation did not Mandate that the City Council approve the rezoning request.” 

    So instead of quoting legal precedents from an Idaho Supreme court to make it’s case for rewriting the SOA’s,  the MEMO quotes a paragraph from “Givens Pursley” Land Use Handbook” [page 7].  But of course,  Givens Pursely is a law firm that specializes in Real Estate, Land Use, and Construction Law, and serves clients who buy, sell, entitle, finance, and develop real properties.  It is obvious that their handbook would promote “predictable” and “objective” re-zoning standards because up-zoning directly benefits their clients. 

    It is inappropriate for Hayden officials whose purpose is to represent the interests of ALL Hayden residents, to base changes to the city’s zoning regulations on the guidance of a law firm that is biased in favor of developers and landowners. 


    In our original complaint we pointed out that the previous version of the SOA’s for “Special Use Permits” contained eight standards, whereas the revised version contained only three. According to the Memo,

    “All of the previous standards were re-worded. If the standard is addressed in a New Standard or another Section of the zoning code, or if the issue would be addressed through the development of the site, then the standard was removed.”

    In other words, four of the eight SOA’s which were most favorable to current residents were removed simply because they referred to issues that are mentioned elsewhere in the zoning code.  For example, the SOA #8 forbids the “destruction or damage of a natural, scenic, or historical area.”  But this was eliminated because the 2040 Comp Plan identifies preserving natural areas as a “goal.”

    Removing standards related to public expenses, neighborhood compatibility, excessive traffic, crowding, inadequate parking, disruptive noise, or destruction of scenic areas, from Hayden’s SOAs, just because these are topics mentioned elsewhere in the zoning regulations makes no sense.  The fact that these issues are mentioned elsewhere in Hayden’s zoning code just CONFIRMS THE IMPORTANCE OF INCLUDING THEM IN THE “Standards of Approval.”  

    It is true that most of the “Standards” that were removed from Hayden’s Zoning code necessitate somewhat subjective judgments.   How much traffic is too much? What is a scenic area?  What is “harmonious and appropriate in appearance?” What are “excessive public costs?”   But these judgments, which BALANCE the rights of old and new property owners, are essential to preserving the quality of life in Hayden for all citizens, current and future. 

    Removing such considerations, which the Memo refers to as “Arbitrary and Capricious” certainly makes life easier for developers and planning commissioners, but it strips all consideration of important matters relating to quality of life from those affected by new development.   It short, it streamlines the densification of Hayden, and steamrolls the citizens of Hayden.    


    We believe that the Hayden city council should take the initiative to restore the previous “Standards of Approval” for both Zone Map Amendments and Special Use Permits to the city’s zoning regulations.   We hope this can be done as soon as possible. Restoring a healthy balance between the rights of existing citizens, and the interests of future developers is essential to promoting healthy growth in Hayden, and to regaining the trust of citizens in their government.    [End of Letter to City Council]


    The problems in the new version of the code are self-evident.  The 2016 Standards of Approval (SOA) are easy to understand and provide clear guidance to residents, developers, and P/Z commissioners.   The 2021 Standards are nearly incomprehensible,  rely on familiarity with the 2040 Comp Plan, and greenlight almost all zoning changes that are consistent with the "Future Land Use Map".  


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