Steamboat Springs Hayden Town Planner Tim Katers said Wednesday that the town’s historic downtown district has a branding problem.
“The word ‘historic’ is a hang-up,” Katers said Wednesday as he outlined a plan to rezone downtown. “I was amazed at how much the name tripped folks up. They thought it meant they could not put up an awning or paint their building.”
Several business leaders in Hayden also think their town’s historic downtown commercial district, which spans five blocks along Jefferson Avenue, is hindering economic development in the area of the town that houses several empty storefronts.
Katers now is working on a plan to open the historic downtown area to more commercial uses and to rename it.
Although the district permits nearly all of the commercial uses that Hayden’s other commercial zoning districts do, some in town worry its title is planting doubt in the minds of potential business owners.
At the request of Hayden’s Economic Development Council and Chamber of Commerce, Katers and the Hayden Planning Commission held four public meetings in May and asked residents what they thought about the downtown zoning.
Some didn’t want it changed. Others said they wanted the word historic removed and a uniform set of zoning regulations adopted.
“There was quite a mix of comments made during the open houses,” Katers wrote in a memo summarizing the public meetings.
Downtown Hayden hosts three zones: the historic district, the service commercial zones and the auto-oriented commercial zones.
Katers said as a result of all the feedback he received at the public meetings, he plans to draft a proposal that would consolidate the three zones into a single one with uniform regulations.
“We probably should simplify it a bit,” he said about the zoning.
Terry Anderson, who owns the building downtown that is home to Wolf Mountain Pizza, likes the idea.
“I cannot say that other businesses are not coming here because the zoning is like this, but I know from owning a building (in Hayden) for a while now that it makes people a bit nervous and has created a sentiment that Hayden is not a good place to do business,” Anderson said Wednesday. “I think the town is working really hard now to overcome that.”
Katers said a majority of the people who spoke out agreed the zoning needed to be changed.
While he acknowledged the recession that started in 2008 likely did more to prevent businesses from moving in than zoning requirements, he said the zoning should be modified if it can help promote business growth.
“Let’s send out an open-for-business signal,” he said. “I think folks are ready to try something new.”
Katers said the word historic won’t be included in the new zone and said the change likely will allow more types of businesses to operate along Jefferson, including automotive shops and gas stations.
Last year, the Hayden Town Council voted to not allow a move of the Kum & Go gas station and convenience store from Poplar Street and Jefferson Avenue into Hayden’s historic downtown district because of zoning restrictions.
Residents worried the move would take business away from stores in the downtown area. Katers said some concern about automotive uses downtown still exist today.
“There is a concern from some about the light and noise that would come with those uses, but support is fairly strong to add auto-oriented uses downtown,” he wrote in the memo summarizing this year’s public zoning meetings. “Discussions at the open house were not focused (on) the Kum & Go application of over a year ago but more on the problem of how to get some business going in the Hayden community.”
The rezoning plan first must be approved by the Planning Commission, and then it could be brought to the Hayden Town Council for consideration as soon as next month.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com