Most Hayden residents who oppose the city's 2040 Comp Plan are aware that the New Plan provides for higher residential densities. But what few realize is that it is that the worst problems with the new zoning regulations have to do with process, not density. The "Mixed Use" zoning designation, for example, eliminates the necessity of a public hearing for approval of almost all multi-family structures. And with that loss of public input, goes Hayden's ability to put any meaningful brakes on over-development.
Special Use Permits
In spring of 2021, the Hayden City Council adopted a new Comp Plan and “Future Land Use Map”. But at the same time they repealed the previous Municipal Code entitled "Title 11 Zoning Regulations" and replaced it with a new one. The new Title 11 Zoning code was completely revised, and it did much more than introduce higher density residential zones. It transformed the entire PROCESS by which high density development is approved.
Until last year, all but the smallest multi-family buildings in Hayden required a Special Use Permit and public hearings for approval. This was a routine process that allowed for citizen input, and required the Planning and Zoning commission to carefully consider the effect of large scale residential structures on the entire community. A link to the application process and General Standards for Approval Applicable to Special Uses, taken from the prior version of the Title 11 zoning regulations is given here, and an image is provided below.
Some of the factors considered as essential for approval of a SUP included:
- “will be served adequately by public facilities and services”,
- “will be harmonious with the existing or intended character of the vicinity and will not change the essential character of the area”,
- “will not create excessive public costs for services or be detrimental to the economic welfare of the community.”
- “will be designed so as not to interfere with traffic or surrounding throughfares” and
- “will not result in the destruction of natural, scenic, or historical features”.
Property owners had no guarantee that a SUP would be issued, but they could sometimes work with the city to resolve problems or appeal to the City Council. But ultimately, a development that failed to clear these standards could be denied, and the residents of Hayden had a meaningful say in what could be built in their city. The SUP process gave both property owners and affected residents a fair hearing and over the years a substantial number of apartments were built in Hayden by this process.
However, the entire SUP process was torpedoed by the 2040 Comprehensive Plan, and the system that replaced it provides very little opportunity for meaningful public input.
Mixed Use and By Right Development
In order to understand the way in which the 2040 Zoning Code undermined the process for approving of multi-family development, it is necessary to understand the concept of By Right Development.
When property is assigned a specific zone by the city, the zoning assignment in itself is a guarantee of certain development rights. For example, a person who owns a parcel that has been zoned as R1 (s(single family) has “By Right Development" privileges to build a single family home as long as he stays within the limits set by the city's zoning regulations (height, coverage, set backs, parking, etc.). A building permit may be required, but it is purely administrative and only considers whether the proposed structure is in accordance with city zoning codes.
Prior to the specification of the Mixed Use zone type in the 2040 Plan, there was no zoning category in Hayden that allowed for “by right” development of large, multi-family structures, but in the new FLUM over 1000 acres were so designated. Developers who own property in these areas are required to go through a rezoning process, but they do not need to disclose their plans for future development. And once their property is rezoned, property owners are free to develop as they choose, without any further concern for the commonweal.
In other words, the Mixed Use zoning designation puts developers squarely in the driver's seat, and makes it almost impossible for concerned Hayden residents to prevent the over-development of their city.
THIS IS INTENTIONAL. In "Smart Growth" jargon, this transfer of power from citizens to stakeholders is known as "Making development decisions predictable, fair, and cost effective." And it is one of the primary objectives of "Smart Growth" rezoning initiatives.
Conditional Use Permits vs. Special Use Permits
The new Title 11 Regulations not only introduced a zoning code that allowed multi-family developers to sidestep the discretionary approval process, the entire code was revised and rewritten in order to get rid of Special Use Permits for virtually all residential development. The idea that the public has ever had any meaningful say in approval of residential structures in Hayden had to be flushed down the memory hole, as if it never existed.
However, the idea of discretionary approval of certain structures still exists, especially in commercial zones. This is because commercial zones encompass a wide variety of uses and it is impossible for the city to give blanket approval to all uses in all areas. For example, dog kennels, bars, radio towers, funeral homes, and places of public assembly, all still require discretionary approval.
The discretionary approval process still remains in the new zoning regulations but it has been renamed “Conditional Use Permit”. The following Chart Displays the Old Standards, that were to be considered by the P/Z commission in deciding to grant a SUP vs. the New Standards used to allow or deny a Conditional Use Permit. It is obvious that all meaningful standards by which a project could be judged as beneficial or detrimental to the community have been gutted.
Who Made these Changes to Title 11 and Why?
It is telling that three of the people most responsible for the Changes to Title 11 that stripped Hayden Citizens of any rights in regards to limiting the amount of High Density Residential development in their community have all resigned from City government in the last year, without explanation.
These include 1) The former mayor 2) the former Director of Community Development, who was responsible for producing the 2040 Comp Plan, and 3) the City Attorney who oversaw the rewrite of Title 11 Zoning Regulations to bring them in line with the 2040 Comp Plan.
None are available to answer the questions of why these changes were made, or to justify their actions. Likewise, two of the four city Council members who passed this plan a year ago have been replaced.
Now who is willing to argue that stripping Hayden citizens of all rights to have input into future development decisions was a good idea? Who will make the case that large scale multi-family projects should be approved "by right" without meaningful public input or that no realistic path to halting large scale development should exist? Having exposed this miscarriage of justice, who is willing to defend the actions of the past leadership of Hayden?
Residents of Hayden should insist that their current city council members reinstate Special Use Permits for all large scale multi-residential development and ensure that the final say regarding density and infill growth stays with the elected officials and the people who elected them.
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Paul Akiyama says (Jul 13, 2022):
Was the public notified prior to making the revisions to the 2008 Title 11-13-3?
erry broeschj says (Aug 14, 2022):
where is roger saterfiel on this issue?