Board tackles land-use code

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Trees planted by early settlers provide shade and character along Hayden's downtown streets.

Residents can't expect the same foresight from developers, who tend not to plant a lot of trees -- or include other neighborhood features -- unless they have to, Town Manager Russ Martin said Thursday during a work session with the Hayden Planning Commission. That's why the seemingly nit-picky details in Hayden's proposed land use code are necessary to let developers know how residents want their town to look.

"The reason this is here, is people tend to go to the lowest common denominator," Martin said.

The commission met to discuss the latest draft of the land use code, which is being re-written by town planning consultant Tim Katers in conjunction with the new comprehensive plan.

The code is about 300 pages -- more than three times the size of the existing code -- because it includes sections on issues such as annexation, not in the current code, as well as new chapters.

The plan's template is Colorado's Model Land Use Code, developed to help small communities facing growth.

New chapters and details in the code are driven by the comprehensive plan. The plan, which the town expects to adopt in April, provides guidelines for fiscally balanced growth that protects Hayden's community character.

Katers said the connection between Hayden's comprehensive plan and land use code is among the tightest he has seen in his work.

"I'm 10 seconds behind your comprehensive plan when I'm writing this," Katers told the commission. "So if you like the comprehensive plan and you think that's the way the town should grow ... make the decision."

Chapter 2 of the land use code, "Community Design Standards," encompasses many of the suggestions made in the comprehensive plan. The Planning Commission's discussion Thursday focused on the chapter, which is one of the most prominent sections of the code, Katers said.

A large part of the chapter emphasizes pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods rather than subdivisions. The section entitled "Neighborhood Design Principals," for example, calls for a variety of housing types, sizes, densities and price ranges. New streets must have tree lawns (the area between a sidewalk and street) with trees every 30 to 40 feet.

Developers will be critical of such details, but the town needs to be clear and upfront about what it wants, instead of negotiating details at Planning Commission meetings, Martin said.

"These are not suggestions, they are expectations," he said.

At the same time, Katers said, the town is responsible for enforcing the same rules for everybody.

"This code cuts two ways. ... It's a protection for developers that the next guy will have to do the same thing," he said.

Ron Sills, one of the partners behind the Villages at Hayden project proposed south of town, said some aspects of the code -- such as the rule that neighborhoods fit within the environment -- are "moving targets" that are hard to judge.

That's why the Planning Commission must justify its position on those details, Katers said.

In addition to "Neighborhood Design Standards," Chapter 2 also addresses the configuration of lots and blocks, parking, sidewalks and trails, fences and walls, landscape design, and residential and commercial architecture.

The Planning Commission spent considerable time discussing whether neighborhood streets should be 40-, 50- or 60-feet wide and whether there should be parking on both sides of the street.

Commission members requested more information and diagrams about the options.

The commission also directed Katers to include in the land use code a requirement that developers present a Block Diversity Plan. The plan would provide an example of how a neighborhood block would fit into the town's design standards.

The Planning Commission plans to spend more time discussing the open space provision in chapter two. Hayden currently requires that 25 percent of most residential developments be dedicated to open space.

Don Johnson, a member of the Hayden Economic Development Council, suggested open space be considered on a case-by-case basis. He said that some open space may be more of a maintenance headache than an asset to the town.

"I'd like to see that looked at seriously," he said.

Planning Commission members agreed that clearer guidelines needed to be established about whether the town or homeowners associations maintain open space and/or parks within developments.

Katers and Martin estimated the land use code should be ready for adoptions in June. More work sessions will be scheduled to discuss the subdivision and zoning chapters.

Drafts of the code are available at Hayden Town Hall and the Hayden Public Library. Sections of the coder referencing Community Design Standards and zoning regulations are posted on the town's Web site, www.townofhayden.com.

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

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