Hayden adopts master plan guiding future development amid changing energy industry
The Town of Hayden adopted a master plan that will guide how it will build for the future, hoping to create a sustainable economy as Hayden moves forward with the prospect of an earlier than expected closing of the Hayden Station Power Plant.
The Hayden Forward Master Plan is meant to be a foundation for future development regulations, policy decisions and community programs. It outlines recommendations that hope to mitigate the immediate impacts of COVID-19 and the longer-term impacts of the changing energy industry.
The plan has been in the works for months, amid a global pandemic, which crafters of the plan say helped them make it better.
“It made us look at things with a different lens,” said Mary Alice Page-Allen, planning and economic development director for Hayden.
Thursday’s unanimous vote to adopt the plan was a formality, as it had been given the OK from both the Planning Commission and Town Council in December, but Matt Mendisco, town manager of Hayden, said it was an important step.
“It will launch us into our new economic development master plan,” Mendisco said. “It really is a formality, but a formality that is going to launch us into the next 10 to 15 years.”
He said meetings with the economic development team to begin work on aspects of the plan would start as soon as next week.
The master plan is formed on several guiding principles to maximize economic development, promote and enhance healthy living, and to put a focus on education. These principles were used as a “north star” for formulating the plan, becoming the “basis upon which the town desires to grow and develop in the future.”
Using these principles, the plan outlines what policy the town should pursue in the future to achieve the goals they lay out.
Housing and neighborhoods are a large part of the plan, balancing growth with the desire to maintain the local heritage.
With Hayden feeling housing pressure from other parts of Routt County, specifically Steamboat Springs, the plan calls for an increase of housing across the community, encouraging the housing to be affordable to local workforces as well as appeal to location-neutral workers who may work from home.
The plan says higher density developments should be located closer to downtown in hopes it will help activate other economic opportunities. The housing stock also should be able to accommodate people in all stages of life from seniors to families to single occupants.
The plan promotes neighborhoods focused on agricultural land preservation and local food production. It encourages homeowners associations to allow gardens and for land use codes to be rewritten to allow people to raise chickens, goats and other small animals in residential neighborhoods.
To promote education, Hayden will work with the Hayden School district to provide affordable long-term housing for teachers and even potentially offer stipends to cover living expenses for teachers looking to further their education. The plan also seeks to further education by offering scholarships to students who want to become teachers.
The plan expands a number of community services and hopes the Hayden Center will improve the quality of life of residents. It looks to increase access to health care, provide recycling services and expand child care options for locals.
Increasing internet access also is part of the plan, looking to extend reliable connections and support private sector investments in the network.
While focused on the future, the master plan seeks to maintain a connection to the ranching and homesteading that the town was founded on.
To do this, Hayden will identify potential conservation easement locations to support the preservation of agricultural land, river access and public trails, the plan says. This will include creating partnerships with landowners, land trusts and other conservation organization.
Town leaders also want to promote “heritage tourism” in Hayden by trying to link prominent spots in downtown, using design elements and signage to create a connection to the past throughout the town core.
The plan also calls to improve sidewalks, creating a pedestrian-oriented downtown and encourage local street vendors and food trucks to set up. Promoting Hayden’s identity in the downtown area hopes to strengthen the community’s connection to the history of the region.
To strengthen connection to the outdoors, the plan looks to increase access to the Yampa River through Hayden’s Three Mile Area, ensure there is a park within 10 minutes of all residential areas and preserve natural resources to maintain the rural scenic character of the community.
This includes potentially lighting some parks at night, pursuing rails-to-trails ventures and creating a marketing strategy around the recreational opportunities in Hayden. Overall, the plan looks to increase the network of bike and pedestrian trails, both for recreation and transportation.
Improving access to public transportation is also a priority, potentially adding new stop locations and more pick up and drop off times by partnering with both Routt County and the city of Steamboat Springs to expand service.
Hayden Mayor Zach Wuestewald said when they began writing the plan, it was largely focused on coal industry, but it has evolved into a much broader endeavor.
“Our biggest concern was strictly the coal industry, and then a couple months ago, everything was flipped on its head,” Wuestewald said. “This is definitely going to help us moving forward.”
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