Jan 19, 2023
A Critical MR Upzone Request is Denied!
January 10th was a good day for Hayden residents who are concerned about out-of-control growth. The City Council meeting was well attended, public commentary was exceptional, and Hayden's leaders made crucial decisions that bode well for the future. And best of all, area residents who testified at the Public Hearing for the Kerr Zone Map Amendment achieved a critical, and somewhat unexpected success.
In addition to the Kerr rezone denial, several other important issues were discussed, and there was informative public commentary regarding developments at Stone Creek North. More about this later; first it is worthwhile to review some of the testimony that helped sway the City Council to deny the Kerr Rezone. It was a difficult decision, but the heart-felt appeals of local residents to preserve Hayden's small-town feel came through loud and clear. They love the area and want Hayden to retain its suburban-rural character rather than transform itself into a densly developed "urban center".
The Video for the Jan 10, 2023 Hayden City Council is here: Public commentary for the Kerr Upzone starts at 2:39:05 and ends at 3:04:10. It is worth watching for anyone who wants to see the difference that regular citizens who love their town can make. The council chamber was packed, and it is likely that the large turnout influenced the Council’s decision as much as the commentary itself. So many thanks to all who attended!!!
Why the Kerr Zone Rezone Denial is So Important
The denial of the Kerr Zone Map Amendment is important for all of Hayden, but its significance may not be clear to those who have not been following the issues closely. A few factors behind the zoning decision are explained as follows:
Neighborhood Context Standard: To begin with, there was a significant change in the "Standards of Approval" (SOA) for zoning changes in early December. The "Standards of Approval" controversy played out over six months and is summarized the article: An Acceptable Compromise. But in short, Hayden's SOA's were completely changed in Spring 2021 and made much less friendly to existing residents. At the December 13th Council meeting, the City Council agree to restore one of the former standards that considers "consistency with neighborhood context” as an important factor. Without this Standard in place, the council would would have had a much harder time "defending" their decision, since the new standards are heavily biased in favor of the developers.
Upzone was to Mixed Residential (MR) rather than Single Family (R1): Another important factor is that the zone map request was for MR rather than R1, even though it is obvious that almost all developed properties in the area have single family residential zoning (4-5 homes per acre) rather than MR (7-8 homes per acre). Had the up-zone request been for a conversion from Residential-Suburban to Single-Family, it would have had much less resistance and would likely have been approved.
Ironically, the planned subdivision was for a combination of single family homes on R1 size lots, and “Twin homes” on somewhat smaller lots. And although an MR rezone, had it been approved, would have allowed the developer to build on smaller lots, the effective density of the proposed subdivision was only slightly higher than R1. Why then, was there so much push back?
BECAUSE HAYDEN RESIDENTS AREN’T STUPID. They know the difference between MR and R1 zoning, and they know that MR zoning (a new zoning codes foisted on Hayden in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan) is a zoning code designed to colonize suburban, single family neighborhoods. MR allows duplexes and triplexes on single-family sized lots, and it encourages the development of multi-family and rental "housing options”. It is a Trojan horse zoning type which can be developed at single family densities, but once a neighborhood has been rezoned for MR the door is wide open for much more multi-family development.
If the Kerr property had been rezoned as MR, then MR would be the new “neighborhood context” for the entire community, and most future development would be done at progressively higher densities. By stopping MR in its tracks, there is some hope that the area can be recognized a permanent single family neighborhood, since R1 is obviously the appropriate zoning code for new development in the area.
Kerr and the Future Land Use Map
The Kerr zone map problem stems directly from the overly aggressive 2040 Future Land Use Map. The entire region surrounding the Kerr property was designated MR instead of R1, not because it made sense, but because Hayden planners were trying to convert as much of Hayden as possible to urban densities, and multi-family housing. The Kerr neighborhood was targeted, not because it is appropriate for multi-family development, but because it has a significant amount of open land that “planners” would like to see developed at higher densities.
The best solution to the problem, for the neighbors, for the developer, and for the City of Hayden at large would be to revisit the 2040 FLUM and redesignate the entire area as R1, except for those portions, formerly designated R-MF that were affected by the citywide rezone to MR. If the area was designated R1, Kerr could adjust its subdivision to conform to R1 standards, and it would probably be approved with far less controversy.
Other Important Issues Discussed
Even without the landmark Kerr decision, the Jan 10 city Council Meeting was notable for bringing several important issues forward. And although none were resolved in such a favorable manner as the Kerr Rezone, all will be important in the coming months for Hayden Residents.
Update on the Stone Creek North Development: In 2020, the owners of the land directly north of the Stone Creek development in East Hayden proposed a new 66 lot subdivision. However, the proposal had a number of problems, including the disruption of an protected watershed, and was tabled to give developers time to resolve problems. Last summer however, work resumed on the project and neighborhood residents have been trying to get the city council to put breaks on new development for the last six months. Several of the public comments at the January meeting related directly to the status of the ongoing conflict.
These comments from the January 10th Hayden City Council meeting provide a useful update about the status for the proposed development, called "Stone Creek North." The speakers were Ross W., Tom S., Paul A., and Eric E., and each provided interesting and factual insights into the problems with the proposed subdivision. A link to another video that explains the problems with building a subdivision over wetlands is here.
Consent Calendar Controversies: The first part of the Council meeting featured an important interchange having to do with what should and should not be put on Consent Calendars. This is an interesting question, because consent calendars are usually approved unanimously by the council at the beginning of a Council meeting, without much discussion. They are intended to include non-controversial items, but the underlying issue is: Who gets to decide what is and is not controversial.
The two issues that Council Members objected to being included in the consent calendar were pay raise for the City Attorney and the new contract with the Sheriff's department. Both were voted on as part of the consent calendar rather than as separate items, but the issues they raised were interesting. The portion of the city council meeting where the consent calendar is discussed begins at 2:00.
It is important for Hayden that the Consent calendard NOT be used to push through controversial topics without discussion, so it is fortunate that this somewhat technical, but critical issue has been brought to the attention of the public.
Overall, January 10th was a good day for Hayden residents!
Keep paying attention, keep the pressure on, and hopefully 2023 will be a good year for "undoing" at least part of the harms done by the 2040 Comprehensive Plan for Hayden.
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