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Hayden staff respond to pro-growth accusations

by MADISON HARDY
Staff Writer | August 12, 2021 1:00 AM

HAYDEN — Resident accusations of pro-growth motives were addressed by Hayden staff Tuesday night.

During the City Council meeting, four residents expressed their opposition to growth and the actions of city officials. 

Joy Richards, who described herself as “one of the previously silent majority,” said she's become more active in city discussions after watching growth change Hayden’s character.

“Something needs to change,” Richards said. “We need to reassess what we’re doing, and we need to do it soon to preserve our city.” 

Scott Farcel also stated his frustration with a “lack of transparency” in the city planning process and omission of public input when preparing Imagine Hayden. Citing what he called the lack of detail on public notices, Farcel contended that staff purposely hide information. 

“Perhaps city planning staff hopes that if they don’t disclose fully, there will be less pushback from Hayden citizens. They’re probably right,” Farcel said. “But where does that leave us?”

Farcel also said he's upset that summaries of public comments in the comprehensive plan were slanted to justify development. Specifically, Farcel noted one example that said citizens unanimously agreed they liked growth when a graphic in the back of the document showed 24% did not. 

After filing a public records request for staff emails, Ed DePriest pointed at conversations he said “don’t seem right.” 

Quoting a string of emails — that has since been circulated on the Responsible North Idaho Growth Facebook page — DePriest contended that staff was “making promises” to developers.  

“People have invested millions in our community with the thought of doing mixed-use and mixed residential developments,” DePriest quoted an email from Community Development Director Melissa Cleveland. 

“The longer we wait to get the ZMA approved, the more likely it is that these projects will need to wait until 2022 to begin building, which is not right,” DePriest quoted an email from another city planner. “At this point, we are giving the impression that we are making empty promises.” 

In a statement Tuesday night, City Administrator Brett Boyer said accusations that staff promote growth and development are untrue. 

“No one on staff level is benefitting financially or trying to do something wrong,” Boyer said. “The (comprehensive) plan is not one of the staff member’s ideas. It is not fair to say so.” 

Boyer noted that while staff met with consultants, the final product resulted from numerous public events, surveys, and workshops. 

In his statement, Boyer said it's typical for the city to receive “very little input and comments from citizens” about planning efforts. The emergence of resident participation now influences the city to slow down and educate the public on planning processes, he said. 

While staff appreciates and welcomes civil discourse, Boyer said it's wrong to “discount the work and direction from those that took their time to participate” in comprehensive plan development. 

“I would expect civility and respect when it comes to talking about the staff that has worked hard on a plan that they had a good direction to move forward with,” Boyer said. “Negative inferences, innuendo and comments made of staff or others on their character and motives, whether in person or on social media, is not respectful nor appropriate.” 

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