Aug 18, 2022
“Since a ‘Public Hearing’ is required by law, you will be allowed to speak your mind, but our decision will be based on ‘Standards of Approval’ that don’t consider the impact of rezoning on existing residents, so nothing you say will matter in the least.”
(Paraphrase of Hayden's "Standards of Approval" for Zoning Amendments)
Zoning "Standards of Approval" Steamroll Resident Concerns
During the first fifteen minutes of the August 15th P & Z public hearing a city official gave a brief overview of the city’s Standards of Approval for Zoning changes. The presenter assured the audience that the city was eager to hear their comments but if they wanted to be effective, they needed to directly address the four “Standards for Approval” in the city’s Zoning regulations. Otherwise their comments would be disregarded.
Unfortunately Hayden’s current “Standards for Approval” for zone changes are incomprehensible to the average person and it is unlikely that most attendees understood what was at issue, even after a 10 minute introduction.
What is a Standard of Approval? It is a legally enforceable guideline that determines what city officials can and cannot consider when deciding whether to approve a zone change request. Factors that do not relate to at least one of the “Standards of Approval” are, according to current law, irrelevant to the decision.
And what do the Hayden's Current “Standards of Approval” provide for? Well, in essence, they rubber stamp all changes that are in accordance with the 2040 Comprehensive Plan and are devoid of any reference to neighborhood compatibility, potential harms from over development, effect on local property values, or burden on city resources. In other words, they are virtually impossible for concerned residents to “address”.
View These “Standards for Yourself”
If you would like to see an explanation of these “Standards”, this is a link to the City of Hayden, Planning and Zoning Meeting, August 15. (discussion begins at 10 minute mark.) It is an open admission that resident testimony at “Public Hearings” is routinely and systematically ignored. The current “Standards of Approval" for Zone Ammendments (Title 11-1-7-E) are as follows:
C. Standards of Approval: (Approved byt Hayden City Council, Spring 2021)
- The commission shall consider the existing zoning district or regulations, and may recommend approval, conditional approval, modification, or denial of the proposal or the commission may defer action until completion of such studies or plans as may be necessary to determine the advisability of the proposal.
- The City Council may impose conditions upon rezoning where such conditions are required to ensure that proposed uses of the area are consistent with community needs and its public health, safety, and general welfare. The Planning Commission may recommend conditions upon rezoning for the City Council’s consideration.
- Amendments to the zoning map and zone text shall be in accordance with the future land use map and the goals and policies found in the Hayden Comprehensive Plan.
- Amendments to the zoning map and zone text shall align with the zone district’s purpose and intent.
If you have read Standards listed above, or viewed the city’s presentation, and it seems as if there is no basis on which a citizen can raise an objection to the the zone change, that is correct. And if the text is so confusing that you still cannot understand what it says, That is Intentional.
Most people feel they are “not listened to” by the P/Z commission and City Council, and these absurd standards help explain why. These "Standards of Approval" codify a legal bias that is so strongly in favor of developers that Hayden officials are bound by law to ignore the concerns of residents.
The game is 100% rigged. All decisions are based strictly on the FLUM and Comp Plan, and no resident concerns about negative effects of development whatsoever can possibly influence a zoning change decision. The bias in favor of develoers is so strong, it goes beyond “not listening” and well into the territory of open contempt for the citizenry.
It wasn’t always this Bad.
These biased and unfair “Standards of Approval for Zone Changes”, did not exist in their current form eighteen months ago. And neither did the equally corrupt “General Standards for Conditional Uses” (discussed in the article How Hayden Residents Lost their Voice),
Until the Spring of 2021, when the current Title 11 Zoning Regulations were adopted, the City’s code supported much more citizen friendly Standards of Approval. The old standards were intentionally thrown out and replaced with new standards that strip residents from having any voice whatsoever in the development of their city.
The Standards of Approval from the previous Zoning Regulations, 11-16-5 (C) are both relevant and readable. And for many years they were used to good effect. Hayden citizens succeeded in stopping several inappropriate developments in residential neighborhoods and when developers did propose impactful projects, they tended to design them in a way that would avoid public oppostion.
That of course was the problem. “Standards of Approval” that allow the existing residents a voice in development decisions inconvenience “stakeholders” and inhibit “investment”.
C. Standards of Approval: (previous to spring 2021)
- Is the rezoning or amendment consistent with adopted plans?
- Does the rezoning or amendment further public health, safety and welfare?
- Is the infrastructure present or can it be available within two (2) years to support the development that the rezone or amendment will allow for?
- Are there circumstances that justify the rezoning or amendment?
- Is the rezoning or amendment consistent with the neighborhood context?
- Does the rezoning or amendment align with the zone district's purpose and intent?
- Would it result in consistent regulations for each property with the same zoning designation citywide?
These standards of approval listed above provided for new development, while giving Residents a meaningful say in the proceedings. So they had to go.
But the question remains: Who removed them and why? And what does the current city Council intend to do about it.
The Dog that Didn’t Bark
Perhaps the most outrageous thing about these new regulations is that, although they were adopted very recently, no Hayden City Official, Council Member, or Planning and Zoning Commission member appeared to object. In fact, on the contrary: It appears that as of April 2021, the entire City of Hayden government was “on-board” with sidelining all meaningful resident input to planning and zoning decisions.
If we'd been a members of the Planning and Zoning Commission during 2021, and the City Code was updated in such a way zoning changes were made without any meaningful consideration of their impact on existing residents, we would have raised objectoins. Why didn’t anyone?
If we'd been City Council Members durnig 2021 and City administrators recommended passage of Zoning Regulations that were harmful to Hayden Citizens, we would have vocally opposed them and voted against them. Why didn’t anyone?
Ironically, the Hayden City Attorney and Planning Director who were tasked with redrafting the Zoning Regulations actually DID quit their jobs and look for new employment. But only AFTER they had rewritten the city ordinances to streamline development and steamroll Hayden residents. Maybe they didn't want to be around to answer questions.
It's Time to Fix the Problem
The gutting of all code that validates citizen concerns regarding zone changes is just another way the 2040 Comp Plan, FLUM and Title 11 Code text strips Hayden citizens of any right to influence the development of their city.
The whole system is an outrageous abuse of power, and the Hayden City Council should halt approval of all zone map amendments until the Standards of Approval for both Zone Changes and Condtional Use Permits have been restored to their previous texts, and the FLUM associated with the 2040 Comp Plan, that is at the root of many of these unhealthy developments, has been officially withdrawn.
The Future of Hayden Depends on prompt action by the City Council to address these issues.
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