Standards of Approval: An Acceptable Compromise


    After six months of consideration, a compromise has been reached regarding Hayden's Standards of Approval for Zone Map Amendments.   We were hoping that the older Standards could be restored in full—since the 2016 Standards were easier to understand and more favorable to existing residents.  This didn’t happen, but the City Council did vote to restore one of the seven original standards.   This is not the best possible resolution, but it is a very significant improvement

    The Standard of Approval that the Hayden City Council agreed to restore was #5 from the original (2016) SOA.   The restored standard asks whether the “rezoning amendment is consistent with neighborhood context?”    This requirement gives residents a basis on which resist dramatic zoning changes that was absent in the current standards.   

    With Standard #5 added to the current standards, the  revised SOAs will look like this:


    The following is a review of the way in which the Standards of Approval for Zone Map Amendments conflict played out over the last few months.   Some of the articles and videos in the links below provide background and help explain why restoring some of the 2016 standards was an important issue for Hayden residents. 

    Spring 2021:   In the first few months of 2021, the previous City Council past a new 2040 Comprehensive Plan that made dramatic changes to Hayden's zone map.    Along with the Comp Plan and new zoning map,  the City Council also pass a massive revision of Hayden's Zoning Regulations.   Part of this was necessary to adapt the Hayden's Zoning code to the New Comp Plan.   But the revision touched on almost every part of the Zoning Regulations, and it was difficult to understand what changes were made because the entire document was reorganized

    Because the dramatic changes to the Standards of Approval for up-zoning were not immediately known to most residents, it took several months for the full effect of the changes to become clear.  Frustration with the P/Z Public hearing process increased as citizens began to realize that nothing they said in opposition to new developments seemed to have any effect. 

    August 15, 2022:   The Citywide rezone of R-MF parcels affected hundreds of Hayden Residents and dozens showed up for the August public hearing.   Unfortunately the hearing went on for over two hours before residents were allowed to speak, and it was obvious  that in spite of resident objections, the rezone would be rammed through the zoning commission.  And because of the very narrowly drawn new "standards of approval",  there was no valid basis on which residents could object.    This is a video of the August 15th 2022 Public  Hearing.  The Planning director's explanation of the new standards begins at 10:00.  

    August 23, 2022:   Only a week after the disastrous August 15 Public Hearings, a Hayden resident appealed to the City Council to change the Standards of Approval for both Zone Map Amendments and Special Use Permits.  The commentary begins at 15:20 of the August 23 City Council Meeting, and a comparison of the old (2016) and current (2021) Standards are given above.   Later in the meeting, the City Council agreed to schedule a workshop to discuss the issue.

    September 30, 2022:  In preparation for an upcoming workshop, Hayden's Planners and Attorneys wrote a memo explaining why the standards had been changed.   The memo attempted to justify changes to the 2016 Standards of Approval that seemed to favor developers over existing residents.  

    October 2022:  Save Hayden Responded to the Attorney’s brief on Standards of Approval, and finds the city’s justification for the new Standards unpersuasive.   A workshop dealing with Standards of Approval is scheduled and delayed twice.    

    November 14, 2022:  A joint P/Z and City Council  workshop is finally scheduled to discuss the Standards of Approval following a regular City Council meeting. The Planning director discusses the new Comprehensive Plan for 90 minutes.  Council members discuss the actual standards of Approval for ten minutes.   Workshop adjourned.

    December 13, 2022:   Council Members discuss two options for making changes to the current Standards of Approval.  Council Member White suggested returning to the 2016 Standards in total, because they were easier to understand and more comprehensive.   However she could not get a second for her suggestion.    Council Member Depriest opposed returning to the old standards and Council Member Roetter said he “wasn't prepared to analyze going back to the old standards”.    Council Member Depriest suggested restoring Standard #5 only and Roetter seconded.      The video of the exchange begins at 1:28:00. 

    After the Council voted to restore Standard #5 to the  the City Attorney reminded the council that all standards should be rewritten in the form of a statement rather than a question so they will conform with the four existing standards.   This is interesting because one of our complaints against the current standards is that they are not resolveable (i.e. they cannot be clearly determined to be true or false).  But according to the City Attorney, having clearly defined, resolveable standards "invites arbitrary and capricious" decision making. 


    It may still take several months to make the changes official.   The proposed revision needs to be approved by Planning and Zoning, and then voted on by the city council.   Nevertheless knowing that the Council has approved this change,  P/Z Commissioners will likely start considering neighborhood context in all future decisions.  If this occurs it is a significant win for the people of Hayden. 

    The city still has not addressed the problems with its revised “Special Use Permit” standards, but that issue is much less important now that a city wide conversion of R-MF to MR has occurred.   The Special/Condition Use Permit code is still problematic, but SUPs standards will probably need to be done by a city council that is more serious about reforming the 2040 Comprehensive Plan.



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