It's one thing to talk about growth and imagine how it might happen.
It's another thing to fly over a development and see its true effects on the landscape and whether it fits or contradicts a community's heritage and values.
Hayden residents will have the best of both worlds during the town of Hayden's presentation of "Visualizing Hayden's Future" on Nov. 15 at the Routt County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall.
The event will showcase a draft of the town's new comprehensive plan using a three-dimensional-picture model made possible through the Orton Family Foundation's CommunityViz project software.
Residents will have numerous opportunities to share their opinions anonymously about the different growth patterns they see using an innovative keypad voting system.
The community's impressions during the presentation will be vital in helping the town revise and finalize the comprehensive plan, which guides the Hayden Town Board and Hayden Planning Commission in making land-use and policy decisions, Town Manger Russ Martin said.
"Hayden will look a lot different four or five times during the evening," he said. "Feedback on that will be important in determining what direction we go."
The event is the next phase in a multistage project funded by a grant from the Gates Family Foundation and designed to help Hayden plan for expected growth.
Boulder-based Winston & Associates, the planning firm facilitating the project, has held three community meetings since the beginning of the year, gauging residents' core values as well as concerns and suggestions regarding growth.
Based on those meetings, the firm has devised the first draft of a new comprehensive plan, which will be presented to the Planning Commission during a work session Thursday. The commission will not make any changes to the plan until it receives feedback from the Nov. 15 CommunityViz event, Martin said.
Though not a regulatory document, a comprehensive or master plan guides the physical development of a town, including land within city limits as well as land anticipated for annexation.
Zoning plans typically follow the land-use patterns laid out in the comprehensive plan, specifying densities and uses for land. Subdivision regulations and the building permit process implement zoning plan requirements.
Meant to consider growth at least 20 years in the future, comprehensive plans typically are updated every five years. The last revision to Hayden's comprehensive plan was in 2000, Martin said.
The impetus for the project was a flurry of development proposals, including the 2,000-home Villages subdivision, targeting the Hayden area. Although the comprehensive plan revision process generally isn't as long and involved as the current project, it was necessary to address what appears to be substantial growth in Hayden's future, Martin said.
By the time many communities, particularly those in fast-growing Western states, start the revision process, they already have a lot of things they would "undo," said Tammie Delaney, project coordinator for the Orton Family Foundation.
"It's a proactive opportunity to say, 'How do we bring the community forward in a way to keep the character and quality that already exists in Hayden?'" she said.
Martin added that instead of developers imposing their values on Hayden, the new comprehensive plan would allow Hayden to impose its values, beliefs and desires on developers.
"They may get what they want, but Hayden will definitely get what it wants. ... Overall, it will be a better project," he said, noting that some developers are waiting for the town to establish a direction because "they don't want to invest in what Hayden could become."
In most comprehensive plan projects, towns typically receive feedback only from an interested minority of people. It's much easier for the town staff and elected officials to set policies and make decisions when they have a comprehensive plan based on majority views, Martin said.
Delaney said the project team has "pulled out all the stops" to encourage the community to attend the Nov. 15 presentation.
In addition to the keypad voting, which will allow participants to share their views in a nonintimidating, anonymous environment, there also will be free child care and a community chili supper during the event, Delaney said.
Martin emphasized that this is a rare opportunity for residents to affect future growth decisions without having to show up to every Town Board or Planning Commission meeting.
"Having been other places, I know this doesn't happen elsewhere," he said. "It may not happen again. This is a one-night-only exercise."
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.
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