The Town of Payson's Community Development Department is hoping to create some good neighbors with a proposal that provides for early citizen involvement in rezoning requests.
The Payson Planning and Zoning Commission voted Monday to recommend approval of an amendment to the Unified Development Code that would require a pre-application review for rezoning requests.
The intent of the review is to familiarize the applicant with the process and the town's requirements. It would also give the Community Development Department ample time to study the request.
The amendment includes a citizen participation plan which would have to be implemented before a public hearing is scheduled. The purpose of the plan is to give applicants the opportunity to understand and try to work with any real or perceived impacts their application would have on their neighbors.
In approving the amendment for recommendation, the commission opened the door for the Town Council to ease some of the tension that has dominated public hearings for rezoning.
"We saw what other communities were doing," said Community Development Director Bob Gould. "Hopefully, it will cut down on the conflict."
During the public hearing at the commission meeting Monday afternoon, Chaparral Pines Drive resident Don Harmon called the ordinance "outstanding."
Gould said the intent of the amendment is to include people beyond the current 300-foot distance from the property involved in the rezoning request.
The requirements now in place call for notification to property owners within 300 feet of the requested zone change. The property owners have the opportunity to respond to that request and their letters for or against the application are included with the information presented to council members when the matter comes up for discussion.
Concerned citizens also have an opportunity to present their arguments for or against the request at a public hearing.
The zoning change requests have generated a lot of community response, but the arguments have often been repetitive and public hearings on the requests have been lengthy.
"A lot of times, a public hearing is not a good time to have a dialogue about it," Gould said.
He said people with rezoning requests would have whatever time they need to discuss their projects with their neighbors.
People with rezoning requests will be required to meet with their neighbors, make phone calls or write letters. They could also hold community meetings.
"If they don't do this, we don't do a public hearing," Gould said.
Gould said he hopes that the amendment will help ease tensions between people involved in the rezoning requests, but he also realizes that some people will fight change, no matter what.
"There are people who won't listen, no matter what you say," Gould said. "But this gives them a chance to have input. Maybe if they talk about it, compromises can be made."
The Town Council will hold a public hearing on the amendment at 6 p.m. Sept. 23 in the Town Hall Council Chambers.
Gould said if the council passes the amendment, it would be two or three months before it becomes part of the town's code.