Residents’ concerns lead Hayden Planning Commission to delay approval of 109-unit development
Steamboat Pilot & Today
In an at-times raucous meeting Thursday, Feb. 23, the Hayden Planning Commission tabled approval of a proposed 109-unit development after strong pushback from residents.
In the motion to table, Planning Commissioner Tim Frentress said he wanted more information about how the development could affect traffic in the area, though that was not the only concern raised by residents during public comments.
Other concerns included whether Hayden needs the additional commercial space proposed in the development, whether the project is too big for the town of 2,000 residents, whether it has enough parking and how the proposed rental units would impact the town’s character.
One fear was that these future renters would be from housing-starved Steamboat Springs and wouldn’t take the same pride in the town as longtime residents, with one commenter saying, “they don’t love Hayden like we love Hayden.”
The development is proposed for land that used to house Hayden Middle School. Developers bought the parcel from the school district for $1.25 million in December. Given the size of the proposal, it’s not surprising there’s been some pushback.
But the development is also in the town’s central business district, which makes the proposed multi-family, mixed-use development a use by right on the parcel, meaning the planning commission can give the only approval needed.
After the unanimous vote to table the proposal until the end of March, developer Joe Armstrong with Main Street Apartments LLC said he was eager to address the residents’ concerns.
“I appreciate the comments, and I personally and our team will be looking forward to working with staff (and) planning commission over the next 30 days to see if we can come up with anything that will better the comments that (residents) brought up,” Armstrong said.
Prior to the vote, planning commission Chair Amy Williams said she was inclined to table the proposal to further explore potential traffic issues, but she noted that simply not liking the development was not a reason for the commission to squash the project.
“Relative to density and development and anything else that was brought up, that was all laid out when (the parcel) got its commercial downtown zoning,” Williams said. “The density is the density. The development and what they can do with it, they have met our requirements. … They have met everything.”
A housing study conducted by Hayden found that current businesses need at least 125 new housing units over the next five years. That number does not take into account overflowing housing needs from Steamboat Springs.
That study also showed Hayden’s rental market is similarly limited to Steamboat’s, with not a single rental being available when the study was conducted. Rentals in general are scarce in Hayden, with most units being single-family homes. Even then, Town Manager Mathew Mendisco said the supply of for-sale homes in Hayden was determined to be at just a two-week supply.
Community Development Director Teagan Ebbert noted that even though Hayden is a community that houses a lot of families, the town also needs units for people who work jobs to support those families like child care workers and teachers.
Parking was another concern among residents, but the development already has more spaces than Hayden’s development code requires. Other residents were concerned about the commercial space included with the development, as Hayden already has vacant commercial space in town.
Traffic was the main source of many residents’ concerns, after a traffic study done as part of the proposal showed it would add more than 900 daily trips to Third Street, a road that residents said is already congested with vehicles and pedestrians. In addition to being near the Hayden Center, Third Street is also a route to Hayden’s school campus.
Residents suggested the development should get its own access to U.S. Highway 40, removing the increased traffic from Third Street, but officials with the Colorado Department of Transportation have already decided that isn’t an option.
Another idea thrown out would turn West Washington Avenue, which is a dead end even in designs for the project, into a through street. That idea also got pushback from residents.
Mendisco recommended the commission consider the proposal again on March 23. He said that in the next month, the town would reach out to CDOT again about adding an access road to the development on U.S. 40 and would explore making West Washington a through street.
“If they say no, it’s a no,” Mendisco said of CDOT.
The town will also try to schedule a time for residents to talk about the development with town staff, a move that Mendisco said would help set expectations ahead of the March 23 planning commission meeting.
Planning Commissioner Melinda Carlson stressed that the town doesn’t dictate the development proposal, but the owner of the land does. The town can’t put a park there, as some residents suggested, because Hayden is not the landowner.
“We have a proposal in front of us, and that’s ultimately what planning commission will be taking action on whether it’s today, whether it’s next month, whether it’s next year,” Carlson said. “I don’t know that tabling for a month, other than getting some clarification on the through street issue, is going to change anything that is actually in the proposal.”
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