Hayden residents consider growth

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Hayden officials and the project team planning for growth in the town should have a better idea of residents' hopes for Hayden after attending a presentation at the Routt County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall on Monday night.

More than 100 residents who live in and near Hayden attended the "Visualizing Hayden's Future" event, weighing in on everything from what future homes, sidewalks and commercial buildings should look like to how the town should approach fiscally balanced growth.

The presentation was the next phase in a multi-step process that will revamp the town's comprehensive plan. Funded in part by the Gates Foundation, the process has included several community meetings gauging residents' thoughts on what should be the town's goals in devising the plan.

Monday night's meeting reaffirmed those goals while exploring various concepts of the comprehensive plan using CommunityViz project software.

Provided by the Orton Family Foundation, the software featured three-dimensional views of growth scenarios accompanied by charts showing the effects on traffic and the city budget. CommunityViz has been an important part of the planning process and may be used to continually monitor growth in the town and visualize new developments.

Throughout the presentation, residents responded to multiple-choice questions using computerized keypads.

"Why is this important? We think change is on the horizon," said Jeff Winston, principal with the Winston Associates planning firm in Boulder, which has facilitated the comprehensive plan process. "We think it's not too long before you get rediscovered. The comprehensive plan is the way to manage it and set some parameters."

Winston explained that though not legally binding, the comprehensive plan establishes the ultimate vision for a community, coordinating town plans and providing a basis for zoning decisions.

While zoning codes follow property lines, the comprehensive plan follows natural features and helps dictate how development takes place within various zones, he said.

In previous meetings, residents have established that the comprehensive plan should be based on a vision of a community where people choose to live and work -- a place where people recognize each other and generational family ties remain strong.

Among the key directions for achieving that vision is fiscally balanced growth in which commercial and industrial development helps pay for the cost of maintaining infrastructure and other aspects of residential growth, Winston said.

Reducing tax-dollar leakage from Hayden to other areas is part of moving toward balanced growth. By dividing sales-tax dollars by the number of residents, Winston determined that the average Hayden resident spends about $9,000 of retail sales in Hayden, whereas the average Routt County resident spends about $21,600 in retail sales within the county.

In a poll during the event, 35 percent of people said they do the majority of their grocery shopping in Craig or Steamboat. The most common reason for shopping outside Hayden was for a better selection.

Sales tax from Yampa Valley Regional Airport is a significant portion of the town's revenues and helps pay for the cost of new development. The airport, however, will not grow with the town, so there needs to be more commercial development in Hayden, Winston said, particularly along U.S. Highway 40, which he referred to as a "conveyor belt of wallets."

But business owner Roger Johnson questioned how more businesses could be supported without more residential development.

Winston agreed that residential growth would have to accompany commercial and industrial growth, but he said there has to be a balance between the three.

"What you don't want to do is emphasize residential to the point that you become a bedroom community," he said, noting that new businesses may attract new employees that would in turn need places to live in Hayden.

Winston also emphasized the importance of limiting "leap frog" growth or developments farther from downtown. Ultimately, the costs of maintaining roads, sewer and other infrastructure will be less expensive in a compact development plan.

"What we're suggesting is you start infilling the existing community ... and then expand outward," he said.

Encouraging compatible land uses in certain areas as well as smaller lots and higher densities near the downtown Hayden core also would contribute to efficient growth patterns, Winston said.

He also suggested the town, which currently designates one type of commercial use, should have designated areas for pedestrian-oriented businesses, services-oriented businesses (attorneys, accountants, etc.) and vehicle-related commercial activity.

While discussing how to retain the town's character, residents verified, while voting their preference on pictures of different types of homes, streets, signs and other aspects contributing to a town's character, that they want tree-lined grid streets, alleys, traditional home and commercial building styles and modest business signs.

Resident Kimberly Stenerson said she understood the importance of improving downtown Hayden but stressed that the town also needs to consider that peoples' first impressions of Hayden are on the outskirts of downtown.

She questioned whether projects such as the chain-based motel proposed for West Jefferson Avenue, is what visitors want to see in a small town.

Winston responded that town officials would have to consider how much they want to influence developments' appearances.

"We work with the national chains all the time, and they are trainable. ... Most developers will do anything you want if they know about it ahead of time," he said.

Another resident questioned what would happen to existing homes along Jefferson Avenue as the town pursued its vision of more commercial activity along the town's main street.

"There is kind of a transition," Winston responded. "I think we're just going to have to acknowledge that will become less desirable for residents over time."

Those wanting to comment further on Hayden growth issues should e-mail rmartin@amigo.net.

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

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