It's not often we get a second chance at a lost opportunity. But we think Payson's leaders owe the town's working-class residents another shot at affordable housing.
Developer Bill Broce, who asked the council this month to rezone a 52-acre parcel of land near the airport so he could build 203 affordable homes, was denied based on faulty reasoning by a minority of the council and protestations from a handful of residents.
Mayor Ray Schum went to great pains to argue that minimum-wage earners couldn't afford the mortgage payments on the proposed homes, which were to start at $80,000. He arbitrarily dismissed the town's mid-level professionals and two-income families who can easily afford $80,000 homes, but can't bridge the gap between their paychecks and the houses that are currently on the market, which average $182,250.
Mr. Mayor, don't those people deserve the opportunity to own homes, too? Aren't those the people you promised to watch out for in your campaign speeches, when you vowed to champion economic development and higher wages?
The dozen or so residents in Mazatzal Mountain Air Park, who filed protests against the development and forced the issue to a super-majority vote, which required six out of seven council votes for approval, argued that the development would bring new residents to the area who would complain about airplane noise and force the airport to close.
The 52-acre parcel in question is already zoned for housing. Broce wanted to rezone the property to accommodate more cost-effective homes. Now there are talks of building $250,000 houses on the property which conform to the existing zoning.
Do the residents of Mazatzal Mountain Air Park really think the owners of those homes will be less troubled by the airport noise? Or do they simply think that homes in that price bracket will reflect more favorably on their property values? The community's best interests were not served by this decision.
Broce can't reapproach the council on this matter, but the council can revisit the issue at its discretion. We encourage the four members of the council who had the foresight to vote for this project to forge ahead and fight for it. Develop a proposal that would be satisfactory to the council as a whole and call Broce back to the table. Don't let this rare opportunity slip away.