Hayden upholds zone map amendment denial

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HAYDEN — The City Council stepped up to preserve the rural feel of one of Hayden’s last open spaces. Developer Jim Taigen of Mead, Wash., had applied for a zone map amendment of his 4.36 acres in the North Chateaux Drive neighborhood last fall. The city’s planning and zoning commission denied the request Sept. 5, and the City Council affirmed that decision Oct. 23. On Nov. 29, Taigen requested that the council reconsider the issue.

A packed house Tuesday night heard Taigen’s attorney, California business lawyer Steven Hassing, argue that the city’s comprehensive plan supported the zone map amendment. According to Hassing, the comp plan envisioned the North Chateaux Drive neighborhood as an R-1 zone, which allows a minimum lot size of 0.19 acres. If Taigen could get his 4.36 acres rezoned, he could build 16 homes. Currently the neighborhood is zoned as residential suburban, which has a minimum lot size of 0.5 acres. Hassing said that the planning and zoning commission denied Taigen’s proposal without any evidential basis, and in violation of his due process rights.

Hassing said Taigen checked the city’s comp plan before purchasing the land.

“He believed you’d be guided by your own comp plan and that he’d be treated fairly,” Hassing said.

Because one of the criteria for approval was that the proposal “fit the neighborhood context,” the question of whether or not the area constituted a neighborhood was at the heart of the debate. Neither side had a legal definition to draw upon, but both drew their own conclusions from the available facts.

Hassing showed how large subdivisions surrounded the area, saying “you can’t just look at one street and call it a neighborhood.” Hassing claimed that according to the city’s own comp plan, the North Chateaux Drive area did not constitute a neighborhood that could avoid becoming zoned R-1.

However, residents offered a different opinion. Many longtime residents said they had bought homes on North Chateaux Drive because of its small town feel and open spaces.

“I wanted to look out and see something other than houses,” said Russ Grant. Once the city granted a zone map amendment to increase the neighborhood’s density, “there’s no going back,” Grant said.

“We bought our property in good faith that this would be our lifestyle,” said resident Linda Auwen

Katie Gordon said she and many of her neighbors raised cows, sheep, goats, horses, and chickens on their properties. She also objected to the prospect of having to pay thousands to hook up to a sewer system that Taigen would bring in.

“It’s not consistent with the neighborhood context. We were there before they built everything around us,” Joe Gore said.

The issue of water rights also played into the question. Hacienda Hills Water Company operator Willis Brownlee explained that the North Chateaux Drive neighborhood was defined, in part, by the shared water rights of its 25 members. The company was formed in 1973 to serve residents who then had lots of 2.5 acres each. Taigen would not be allowed to convey his two shares to anyone else outside the company, or to place multiple homes in very near proximity to the company’s water source, said Brownlee.

A Hayden Lake Irrigation District spokesman said the district had issued a “will serve” letter to Taigen, which it could execute immediately, or which it could put on hold for up to two years from now.

While attempting to be fair to all sides, council members came down on the side of the residents.

“It may be a small neighborhood but it is a neighborhood,” said council member Jeri DeLange. “Here we have an area in the middle that has for years preserved that small town feel and green space, and that’s an important part of our comp plan.”

Council member Dick Panabaker said it was the first time in his decades of public service that he had seen a proposal so immediately, directly affect the existing residents of an area.

“Who’s looking out for them? These are our people, our neighbors, our friends,” he said. “Let’s not mess with that. Let these people be.”

City attorney John Cafferty said that the city’s comp plan doesn’t have the force of law.

“It is not a regulatory document, but is a building block to how you get to your zoning.”

“I think that this plan is inconsistent with our adopted comp plan and is inconsistent with the neighborhood context,” Mayor Steve Griffitts said.

Council members voted unanimously to deny Taigen’s request for reconsideration of their previous decision.

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