Keypad voting allows for anonymity

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Some people have no problem standing up to voice their opinions at public meetings, but not everyone wants to be in the spotlight, especially when it comes to commenting on sometimes-controversial issues such as growth and development in Hayden.

"It's hard when you're in a small community, and you and your neighbors don't agree," said Donna Hellyer, chairwoman of the Hayden Planning Commission.

But public input is critical in helping town officials make decisions. That's why the town of Hayden and the project team behind the "Visualizing Hayden's Future" presentation Nov. 15 will use a keypad voting system, allowing residents to share their views anonymously.

"The whole intent is to get away from any kind of intimidating environment," said Tammie Delaney, project coordinator for the Orton Family Foundation, which is developing the main components of the presentation using its Community Viz software.

Scheduled to be from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Routt County Fairgrounds exhibit hall, the Nov. 15 meeting is the next phase in the town's efforts to address growth by planning for development that will preserve Hayden's character.

The eventual result will be a new comprehensive plan that will guide the Planning Commission and the Hayden Town Board in making healthy policy and land-use decisions.

Hayden residents will see core components of the first draft of that plan, as well as different possibilities for growth and development patterns, in three-dimensional picture models built through the Community Viz software.

Throughout the presentation, participants will see charts and graphs demonstrating the effects of growth patterns on traffic, utilities and the city budget. They will answer multiple-choice questions based on the graphs and models using computerized keypads.

The results of the surveys will be shown on a large screen within seconds of voting.

Town officials and the project team will use the results to make changes and revisions to the comprehensive plan draft.

"It's not about approving or rejecting the comprehensive plan," said Ken Snyder of Denver-based Civic Results, which is coordinating the keypad process. "It's about getting a feeling about how strongly people support the components."

The project team also will ask participants questions about Hayden's character and what should be protected in the town. The subject has been discussed at other community meetings, but organizers want to reaffirm those views, Snyder said.

"I think it will be one of the more interactive meetings Hayden will see," he said. "It will be fun, but it also will be a great way to voice what you feel is important for Hayden."

In addition to providing instantaneous results, the technology allows for "feedback loops" or revisiting areas of concern with additional questions, Snyder said.

Keypad voting systems have existed for more than a decade. They commonly have been used in corporate and academic settings, though they are being used more in political and community projects, he said.

Town officials and the project team are urging residents to attend the Nov. 15 presentation and make their voices heard about Hayden's future.

"This is the opportunity for everyone in this community -- it is their community -- to get involved," Hellyer said.

Free child care will be provided at Hayden Valley Elementary School, and the event will include a community chili supper.

Although the intent of the presentation is to gather feedback from Hayden residents, all Yampa Valley residents are invited to the event. The number of keypads available at the presentation will determine whether nonresidents may participate in the voting, Delaney said.

For more information, call 276-3741 or go to www.yampavalley.info and follow the home page link to the Hayden Planning and Visioning Process.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com

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