Are You Dense? Understanding Claims about Density

    In this article we will discuss density and how it is measured.   We would like Hayden residents, especially those whose property the city is trying to rezone, to understand all the factors related to density so they will not be mislead by false assurances.

    Residential Zones in Current and Future Land Use Maps

    Most rezoning in Hayden has to do with the process of transitioning from the city's current zoning to the 2040 Future Land Use Map (FLUM).  Our Zoning Documents page has more information about the 2040 Comp Plan, including current and future Land Use Maps, and we recommend a quick review.   The following is a summary of current and future residential zones. 

    Current Residential Zones.  

    1. (RS) Suburban Rural 
    2. (R1) Single Family (Duplex with S.U.P.)
    3. (R-MF) Residential Multi-family (SF, Duplex, Triplex, Fourplex; (5+MF with S.U.P.)
    4. (C) Commercial Multi-family (5+MF with S.U.P.)

    Residential Zones Specified in Future Land Use Map (FLUM).  

    1. (RS) Suburban Rural
    2. (R1) Single Family (ADUs OK).
    3. (MR) Mixed Residential (SF (ADU ok), Duplex, Townhome, Cottage) 
    4. (MU) Mixed Use (4+MF By Right)

    In order to transition to the Future Land Use Map, the city is attempting eliminate R-MF zones and replace them with R1, MR, or MU.  The  purpose of the new zones is to increase residential densities so all rezoning efforts initiated by city officials is done with that end in mind. 

    Most residents are being told that a particular change won’t affect their neighborhood and this may be true, but the transition to the FLUM that these zoning change enable will affect every resident of Hayden.  

    Residential Setbacks and Lot sizes

    The chart below, taken from the current Title 11 Zoning Codes shows the Density statistics associated with each of the residential zones listed above. 

    Note:  Setbacks for Commercial multi-family was the same as for R-MF, and max lot coverage was 35% .

    MR vs R-MF Comparison.  The chart compares R-MF, the Multi-family zone the city is trying to replace, with MR, the multi-family zone favored by city planners.  The numbers show that MR densities are clearly higher for single family but when comparing duplexes and triplexes, things are more complicated.    Let's take a closer look. 

    Comparing Residential Densities

    When comparing residential densities, threre are several factors to consider.

    Dwellings per Acre:   Dwellings per acre is easy to understand when comparing apples to apples.  For example,  the minimum single family lot size in the MR zone is 66% of that of R-MF (5500 vs. 8250 sq. ft.), allowing for eight dwellings per unit instead of five (not counting ADUs which are discussed below).   But what about duplexes and triplexes? 

    There are 43,560 sq. ft. in an acre.  The minimum lot size for a duplex in MR is 7000 sq. ft. which could facilitate up to six duplexes per acre.  However, the necessity of building roads must be factored in when making practical estimations of densities.  But the same issue holds true for R-MF zoning.   Even with a 9900 sq ft lot minimum, almost impossible to building four duplexes, as the chart below demonstrates (for practical densities, we have assumed 15% of land required for roads access).  

    But what about Townhomes and Cottages?  The chart doesn't provide minimum lot sizes for these structures, but supposedly they could be limited to 8 dwellings per acre by a development agreement with the city.  The reason no minimum lot sizes are given is because these structures are intended to be part of a "Courtyard/Condominium" development with shared common areas. However, there are problems with this style of development besides density, so Courtyard homes are discussed elsewhere. 

    The following chart provides both theoretical and practical maximum densities for R-MF and RM.   We have noted where the city claims an 8 dwelling per acre maximum density can be imposed by fiat.  

    Maximum lot coverage: Another way to measure density is maximum lot coverage.   The size of residential structures matters almost as much as the number of allowable dwellings.  But again, maximum coverage values can be misleading.  For example,  R1, single family zoning allows for 45% lot coverage, MR allows 40% coverage, and R-MF (which the city is trying to abrogate) allows only 35% coverage. 

    It appears as though Single Family allows for the highest densities, but this doesn't consider the fact that  homes on R-MF single family lots (8250 sq. ft.)  are often smaller than the maximum allowable coverage, where as homes on MR lots (5500 sq. ft.) would usually be built to maximum coverage standards and are frequently two stories.  And there is an enormous qualitative difference in terms of privacy in neighborhood with primarily single story homes vs. subdivisions with acres of two story homes on tiny lots. 

    Ironically, under the old zoning code,  the density of multi-family structures greater than 4 units was not specified in terms of dwellings per acre, but they were limited to 35% lot coverage.  Mixed Use, on the other hand, is limited to 15 dwellings per acre, but is allowed 70% lot coverage.   Yet Mixed Use proponents often claim it is a "less dense" zoning category. 

    Mixed Use Density:   Probably the most contentious aspect of the densification debate in Hayden has to do with Mixed Use and large scale multi-family development.  Defenders of Mixed Use argue that 12-15 dwellings per acre, is a reasonable standard for multi-family developments, but critics claim that the real problem is the total number of acres dedicated to Mixed Use in the FLUM.  Even at 12 units per acre, the FLUM provides for thousands of units of high density rentals.   

    Assuming 13.5 dwellings per acre for Mixed Use, and 8 per acre for Mixed Residential (the city's numbers),  "maximum build out" of the City of Hayden, according to the FLUM is about 13.5 x 1495 + 8x 1237 = 30,078 new dwelling units, mostly zero-lot rentals and condominiums.    This would more than quadruple the population of Hayden, and is patently absurd, yet these are the actual numbers used to produce the 2040 Sewer Plan, that the city is already working to develop.   

    More Problems with Mixed Use.  As the charts above showing the cummulative effect of densification show, density per acre is one of many factors that need to be considered.  And at Save Hayden, we believe that another problem, just as serious as the total number of acres zoned for mixed, use, is the administrative process by which by which Mixed Use zoning guarantees development privileges to land owners, without regard for the effects of over-development on the greater community.  Providing for "byy right" development of large scale multi-family complexes in "Mixed Used" zones, makes it impossible for Hayden citizens to have a say in limiting out-of-control growth in the region.  We have discussed this problem at length in the article,  How Hayden Residents Lost their Voice?   

    There are many more problems with Mixed Use, including the fact that it makes no provisions for privately platted residential parcels suitable for home ownership.  Mixed Use is a zoning code designed by globalists for the purpose of transforming every town in America into an urbanized,  corporate owned,  "walkable community."  These problems are discussed in the article Why Mixed Use Development is a Menace for North Idaho.   

    Accessory Dwelling Units and Courtyard Communities

    There are several more factors that complicate the discussions about zoning densities, but also influence the quality of life and character of Hayden neighborhoods.  Both call into question the priorities of those who developed the 2040 Zoning Regulations. 

    Accessory Dwelling Units:  One of the most insidious aspects of the new zoning code in Hayden is that it provides all single family home owners with the option of adding an Accessory Dwelling Unit of up to 1000 square feet, the size of a 2 bd apartment.  ADUs have always been permitted on a case-by-case basis, but the new code provides for blanket approval, without regard for lot size, street frontage, or neighborhood density. 

    In the previous code, the maximum size of an ADU was 800 sq. ft, and the minimum single family lot size was 8250,  but in the new Code the max ADU size is 1000 sq. ft. and the minimum single family lot size is 5500.   This begs the question of  whether the so-called 8 dwelling per acre cap on MR zoning has any meaning, since every "dwelling" can theoretically contain an auxilliary dwelling.   It also begs the question of whether single family zoning still exists anywhere in Hayden.

    It is hard to say how much this blanket approval of ADUs for all single family lots will affect future development, but some new home developers (not yet in Hayden) are already offering ADUs as an option to new home buyers.  And how much will proliferation of ADUs increase short and long term rentals, parking and traffic problems, and safety issues in formerly stable single family neighborhoods?

    Courtyard Homes:  Courtyard Communities are a supposedly “new” concept by which a nicely landscaped property is populated by individual homes and townhouses in such a way that each dwelling has a small or non-existent private yard, but shares open spaces, courtyards, and recreational areas with the whole community.  Individual dwellings may be privately owned but residents must pay monthly condominium fees to cover the upkeep of common areas.  

    Hmmm.  Where have we heard of this type of set up before?  Sounds a LOT like Manufactured Home Parks.  Yes, the exact same Manufacture Home Parks that have been declared NON-CONFORMING in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan, and are being "phased out" by the Hayden City Planners,   So the New Urbanist solution to “compact, affordable housing” is just the same as the Old Ruralist solution, except more pretentions, more expensive, and designed to benefit Corporate Developers instead of existing Manufactured Home owners.   

    The densities of MR Courtyard Developments are about the same as Manufactured Homes Parks,  but MH Parks residents can purchase their homes from private entities, so land owners cannot monopolize the availability of homes.    In any case, the idea that the 2040 Plan makes no provision for Manufacture Home Parks and has relegated all existing facilities to "Non-conforming" status, while at the same time it has revised its Multi-familiy zoning standards in order to promote Courtyard Homes is beyond ridiculous.  

    To the left is a Hayden MH Park that has been declared "Non-conforming".  It is not allowed to expand, and new MH Parks are not permitted in either MR or MU.    To the Right is an artist's rendering of a Courtyard Community,  the way of the Future.  "Smart Growth"

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