Hayden Planning Commission deadlocks twice before denying 109-unit development

The denial was intended to trigger an appeal, pushing decision on the development's fate to the Hayden Town Council

As proposed, the building that will front U.S. Highway 40 as part of a 109-unit development in Hayden will be two stories and have commercial space on the ground floor.
Town of Hayden/Courtesy photo

The Hayden Planning Commission came to a tie vote twice on Thursday, March 23, before unanimously denying a 109-unit development at the town’s core, with the intention of letting the Hayden Town Council make the decision on the controversial project.

The 4-0 vote to deny the project came after a pair of motions tied 2-2, with the first being to approve the project and the second to continue the matter to the next meeting in the hopes of having a fifth planning commissioner available.

The motion to deny was made by Planning Commission Chair Amy Williams, who had voted to approve the application and voted against a continuation. Williams said her intention with the motion was to come to a decision that could then be appealed to Town Council.

According to the town’s code, either the project applicant or a member of the town council can trigger an appeal of a planning commission decision. While an appeal is not guaranteed, and developer Joe Armstrong didn’t indicate whether he intended to file one or not after the meeting, an appeal is expected.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Hayden Mayor Ryan Banks said after the meeting. “I would be surprised if the applicant doesn’t appeal it.”

The 5-building, 109-unit development proposed on land that used to house Hayden Middle School led to a raucous planning commission meeting in February where residents voiced a number of concerns about the project, most of which can be traced back to the project’s density.

At that meeting, the planning commission tabled consideration of the project with the goal of further exploring the traffic impacts to South Third Street. Leading up to Thursday’s meeting, town staff and the applicant were able to get the Colorado Department of Transportation to allow a direct access on to U.S. Highway 40 — though it would be exit only and right turn only.

This and several other potential solutions that were explored were discussed at a community town hall earlier this month, though this was the only access on U.S. 40 that CDOT would allow.

The gray bar on the top right of this diagram is where the additional, exit-only, right-turn only access on to U.S. Highway 40 would be.
Town of Hayden/Courtesy photo

The parcel is part of Hayden’s Central Business District zoning, making a development of this size a use-by-right. Planning commissioners, even though some opposed the project, admitted the proposal does comply with the zoning and standards of the town’s code and the Hayden Forward Master Plan.

“I still have significant concerns, even though I acknowledge that this does meet the development code and it does meet the master plan,” Planning Commissioner Melinda Carlson said, who voted against approval of the development.

Get the top stories in your inbox every morning. Sign up here:

Williams agreed with Carlson that the project met the development code and master plan, and therefore felt it was “very dangerous to take away those property rights that the community has essentially given.”

“I think if you met every single aspect of the code that we have laid down and that our community, two years ago willingly and with thought, zoned this parcel, it is very inappropriate to not move that forward,” Williams said. “Like my comments or not, I am a property rights advocate.”

The development proposed in the core of Hayden would include five buildings — one two-story mixed use building and four three-story residential buildings.
Town of Hayden/Courtesy photo photo

Planning Commissioner Tim Frentress, who also voted against approval, said he felt it was too big of a development that would cause too many traffic issues. He suggested the developer cut the project to 75 units instead.

Armstrong, the developer with Main Street Apartments LLC, tried to ease those fears by pointing out the new U.S. 40 access would reduce traffic on Third Street by 40% and that it is a phased project, with the first phase only including 50 to 60 units. Neither statement changed Frentress’ vote.

In public comment, resident JJ Pike spoke against the project concerned about traffic, asking for another potential access to be studied. Another resident, Charlie Cook, spoke in support of the project, saying that Hayden needs some growth.

“In the two years I’ve been here, I’ve already seen restaurants go up, things expanding, and I think that’s something we’ve all appreciated,” Cook said. “If we want to grow as a town and a community and provide those opportunities for all of us and our loved ones to create small businesses — which America was built on — we certainly need a population that can support that.”

The final public commenter, Town Council member Trevor Gann, said he has been asked what it would take for Hayden to no longer feel like the Hayden he grew up in.

“This development might just do that,” Gann said. “I would imagine regardless of the decision (Planning Commission makes) it will be appealed.”

Town Council has a meeting this week, but it is too soon to allow town staff to add the item to the meeting’s agenda and achieve notice requirements. If appealed to Town Council, the development would likely be considered in April.

“I’m sorry to the community that planning commission can’t do its job,” Williams said. “I believe that this is the only outcome that is going to move this forward.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.