West Routt eyes renewable energy, transportation as key aspects of next master plan

The Hayden Station is set to be retired by the end of 2028, with Xcel Energy having a variety of ideas for how to use the space going forward, with some ideas including renewable energy production.
Matt Stensland/Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

Hayden residents want Routt County’s next master plan to focus on regional transportation, renewable energy and growing industries in the western part of the county.

Town board members met with county planning staff earlier this month to discuss the master plan and Hayden’s role in it as a growing municipality in the county. Like Steamboat Springs, Hayden grew faster than the county as a whole since the 2010 census.

Regional transportation was an important issue for residents in West Routt, with many of them commuting either to Steamboat or Craig to work. County Planning Director Kristy Winser said as many as 95% of trips on U.S. Highway 40 west of Steamboat are people traveling to town from Craig or Hayden.

“Alternative transportation rated very high for West Routt,” Winser said. “Opportunities are potentially there for some sort of regional transportation for Northwest Colorado.”

County staff have met with each of the town boards as part of the master planning effort that hopes to have a draft plan late this spring or early summer. Winser said they have also had meetings with other groups like Union Pacific Railroad about the future of tracks that are scattered over the valley.

Winser said data about regional transportation has gotten the railroad’s attention, with the tracks potentially being part of a regional network, though she said talks were preliminary. But transit also includes trails and recreation, as well, Winser said.

A county-run survey shows open lands are a priority for residents in general, and the same is true for Hayden. Mary Alice Page-Allen, planning and economic development director in Hayden, said river access is a strong part of the town’s master plan, and she believes it needs to be considered in the county-level plan, because most access is in the unincorporated county.

Winser said the county has been working with outdoor groups like the Routt Recreation Roundtable to explore the balance of increasing trail networks while protecting natural open spaces. Part of the planning effort will create a future land use map that would allow certain places to be designated for uses like recreation or trails.

Dave Dixon, an urban planner with Cushing Terrell, the firm assisting the county with the master planning, said both the survey and a community meeting in Hayden showed that issues like affordable housing are important across the county. But in Hayden, there was a focus on renewable energy, as well.

Planning staff have reached out to Xcel Energy about their intentions with the Hayden Station as it nears retirement and how that fits into the master plan, Winser said.

A particularly interesting part of the plan from Hayden’s standpoint is what it will outline for near the Yampa Valley Regional Airport, which is where the town has looked at increasing industrial and commercial business space. Dixon said local food production, cannabis and hunting are three industries already growing in the town.

Mathew Mendisco, Hayden town manager, said adding amenities like a hotel near the airport is a priority, especially as there are a record number of passengers using the terminal.

Winser also asked town leaders about their view on short-term rentals and how they should be viewed in the next master plan. Mendisco said the town’s policy, which is currently being finalized, is that a true vacation home rental is a commercial business and doesn’t belong in residential neighborhoods.

A summary report on the community engagement work is expected by the end of the month, with more online outreach coming in February. A draft of the new master plan will be produced by early summer.

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