The Payson Town Council is sending a message to the public on how it stands on the water issue: It will do what it takes to get water to the town.
Despite concerns about being equitable, the council passed an ordinance 6-1 Thursday night to increase the water development fee for new construction. Councilmember Barbara Brewer voted against the ordinance.
The water development fee will more than double for developers of fewer than 20 residential units without existing water within 500 feet of a town water line.
The fee, which had been set at $1,503 per residential unit for such developments, will increase to $3,785 beginning March 1, 1999.
Those whose projects are more than 20 residential units and those beyond 500 feet of an existing town water line will be expected to find their own water source.
Councilmember Hoby Herron said, "I would like to see something done and get it started. Then, if we need to, we could revise it.
"We need to get something on the books that lets the public know how the council feels about water."
Councilmembers Jack Monschein and Ray Schum agreed that increasing the water development fee was the most important decision that the council would make.
The decision was not an easy one. Members of the audience argued against the method for increasing the fee.
Paul Pitkin, a Payson resident, told the council, "What you're doing here with this is you're turning Payson into a rich man's town."
Community Development Director Bob Gould was in favor of the increased fee, but agreed with some of the arguments against the measure.
"We're caught between a rock and a hard place," he said. "I don't think it's total gloom and doom. I just think we're going to have to continue working on it."
Mayor Vern Stiffler said the decision to increase the fee is based on capital costs involved with water exploration. "You have to look at it in that vein," he said.
Public Works Director Buzz Walker said the higher fee will force developers to build where water is already available. "It will primarily affect commercial developers," Walker said.
Brewer argued against the increased fee. "It will make housing even less affordable."
Real estate broker and Payson Planning and Zoning Commission member Bob Flibotte agreed.
"I question just how many permits would be lost because of the increase in these fees," he said. "You're essentially destroying a lot of people's dreams."
Council member Ken Murphy, who voted in favor of the amendment, said he thought growth should pay for itself, but talked about a fee that would be more equitable.
"I don't want us to turn away a builder who wants to come in to build a 1,000-square-foot home," he said.
The council directed Walker to try to find a more equitable method for imposing the fee and to get back to the council with his findings within 90 days.