Hayden The Hayden Planning Commission listened with interest to a presentation by Chuck Donley of the Orton Family Foundation last week explaining the benefits of the planning software CommunityViz.
After watching the full presentation, the Planning Commission voted to recommend the program to the town of Hayden for use in future growth studies.
"We were very enthusiastic about what we saw," Planning Commissioner Donna Hellyer said. "This is a tool for those of us who are laypeople. Even though we have that expertise on the commission now, we are not builders or developers."
CommunityViz is a GIS computer program that answers questions about the impacts of future growth using 3D, video game-style presentation that is understandable to the average person.
"We could look at the overall plan or focus details like the water, the size of a building or the placement of the roads," Hellyer said.
"This is a great tool for smart growth in Hayden," said town board member Lorraine Johnson, "but before we can really talk about this, it has to go before the town board for a vote."
But Hellyer is confident that the board will be as interested in acquiring the software as she is, she said.
Two town board members, trustees Joe Schminkey and Richard "Festus" Hagins, attended the meeting.
The greatest obstacle will be money, Hellyer said.
The software could end up costing the town as much as $15,000.
"One thing that came out of the meeting," Johnson said, "was the idea that we need to start looking for grants."
The town would also need money to hire a consultant who would operate the program.
"Hiring a consultant would take pressure off town staff and free (Town Manager) Rob Straebel to do his job," Hellyer said.
The commission asked Donley if it would be more cost effective to send a commissioner or a staff member to learn the software.
"First, he said that the person we send should have a planning background," Hellyer said. "He also said that it would cost about $1,000 for the four day course."
"I can see where it would be a valuable tool," Schminkey said. "But it would be nice if someone in the town had the expertise without having to turn to an outside consultant.
"The more tools and information the town has the better decisions we can make," he said.
In other business, the commission discussed possible definitions for "open space."
Straebel presented definitions used by other Colorado towns, as well as definitions from the Department of Local Affairs and the Colorado Municipal League.
"I guess we will plagiarize a little bit and take the best pieces out of each one," Hellyer said. Hellyer especially like the open space definition used by Durango, she said.
Durango's definition asks that all open space by "useable" and suggests that it be "interconnected" with other pieces of open space for use in a trail or park system.
"Right now, Hayden's definition is very vague," Hellyer said.
According to a Hayden town ordinance, developers must dedicate 25 percent of their land to the town as open space, "but we want to make sure we don't just end up with a big plot of land that the town can't maintain," Hellyer said.