Monday, May 20, 2024

Hayden, get a grip on growth

| October 29, 2021 1:00 AM

As a former Hayden City Councilmember, I am compelled to weigh in on the current ballot for Hayden residents regarding city council positions.

I am saddened and confused at the newest version of the Comprehensive Plan, which serves as a guiding document for decisions by city council regarding growth. This updated plan was passed by three long-serving council members (and a newer council member and mayor) and allows for increased density on the prairie. The current incumbents have been in office for about twenty years each. This, in my opinion, is way too long, as one begins to lose touch with the citizen base and begins to represent from an insular point of view.

It is time for a new direction for the city with new leadership. I hope that Hayden voters will weigh in on this in the upcoming election by electing representatives that will be highly responsive to ensure that we grow responsibly in Hayden.

I first went to work for the city in 1994 when there were about 6,000 residents. That means in a little over 25 years the population has nearly tripled to its current rising level of 16,000! While some infrastructure has been added, there is not enough to effectively move traffic, provide smaller classroom learning, nor to maintain high levels of parks, streets, plowing and enforcement services for Hayden citizens.

While serving on the council I was a part of many public meetings and studies to plan for the future of Hayden. There was always input from citizens desiring to maintain the “Hayden Village feel” and not to become a mere bedroom community in the greater Coeur d’Alene area. There was not opposition to all growth, but the desire to keep the pace of life slow and easy and comfortable. The hope was to grow with mostly in-fill and not to expand city boundaries onto the prairie.

The newly adopted 2040 Comprehensive Plan references a “small town feel” but uses the guide of “concentrating high-impact development at nodes and along corridors” to maintain that feel and projects more than doubling the population in the next 20 years. Additionally, it references having “an efficient roadway system that manages traffic well, and plentiful open space,” and yet the updated maps show zero expansion of roads such as West Hayden Avenue where houses and apartments are being built by the dozens. Rather it states that “through ongoing analysis of the transportation network and coordination with KMPO, ITD, and other transportation planning agencies, Hayden will work to address these issues in a timely, financially responsible, and efficient manner,” indicating that there is not a plan in place to mitigate current traffic congestion, but merely a plan to plan!

I identify with and understand the complexity of making difficult decisions while serving on a city council. It is not easy to navigate projections, state laws, staff recommendations and citizen input. Yet, when it gets right down to it, there is nothing that mandates providing for growth or those that desire to move to this area. That means that a city council can decide appropriate measures to ease growth and place its current citizens above developers and builders. It is not an easy balance to strike. It takes working together to be creative and innovative.

I hope that each of you will research well your choice for Hayden City Council. If you would like to see a change in Hayden's growth direction, vote for new leadership. Most importantly I hope that you will be involved, be aware, be active in what happens in our community and vote!

Nancy Lowery is a Hayden resident and former City Council member.