Land Deal For Firm May Still Be Alive

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A contingent of town officials and Payson citizens learned Thursday that a state land deal that would bring a high-tech firm to Payson is still possible.

The group attended a State Land Department Board of Appeals meeting Thursday morning in Phoenix to consider ratifying decisions it made on two parcels of land near the Payson Airport.

What brought town officials and concerned citizens scurrying to the Valley was the board's decision to lease rather than sell 13.5 acres of state land to Phoenix Logistics, an engineering, testing and production firm in the aerospace industry.

The group went in support of the company's owner, Ray Bellefeuille, who has said that he has no interest in leasing the property.

"We didn't have a chance to say anything," said Vice Mayor Ray Schum. "But we found out there are two things we can do."

He said the group learned they could appeal for an informal settlement conference in Phoenix or ask for an appeal with public input within 30 days.

"If we don't agree with the board at the informal settlement conference, then we can ask for an appeal with public input," Schum said.

Town officials have touted Phoenix Logistics as a clean industry that could provide Payson with up to 200 high-tech, high-paying jobs and a $5 million payroll.

On Jan. 14, the board of appeals approved the sale of 25.1 acres of land which the town hopes to purchase. But the decision to sell was at a higher price than the appraised value.

Town Manager Rich Underkofler asked the Town Council Thursday night to approve the state's minimum asking price of $747,200. The property, which the town plans to use for expansion of the airport, will be sold at auction in June. The parcel the town plans to purchase was originally appraised in May 1998 at $635,000 by Nagy Property Consultants of Phoenix.

The council voted 6-1 to approve the authorization of the letter to the State Land Department. Council member Hoby Herron voted against the request.

When the Jan. 14 decision was made, one member on the five-member State Land Board of Appeals was absent and the vote was 3-1 in favor of increasing the price on the property sought by the town. The vote was also 3-1 to lease, not sell, the 13.5-acre parcel to Phoenix Logistics.

In its 3-1 decision to lease the property to Phoenix Logistics, the board went along with State Land policy to lease land that has commercial or industrial development potential. Town officials say the vote went against a recommendation by the State Land commissioner to sell the property.

Thursday's ratification of the two decisions went uncontested. Town Manager Rich Underkofler said the board's chairperson decided against listening to arguments on the advice of land department lawyers, who said that the agenda did not provide for a hearing.

"We didn't have a chance to say anything, but we all left the meeting feeling pretty good," Schum said. "We're still up there swinging as far as Phoenix Logistics goes."

Attending the meeting from Payson were Underkofler, Schum and Payson Roundup publisher Richard Haddad.

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