Airport Friendly Neighbors Bothered By Affordable Housing Development

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Mazatzal Mountain Air Park resident Robert Henley doesn't mind having an airport in his back yard; it's a new housing development that has him up in arms.

Henley, a private pilot, and many of his neighbors, bought property in the air park so they can taxi their airplanes between their homes and nearby Payson Municipal Airport.

But Henley and many of his neighbors are worried that a planned affordable housing development north of their subdivision will clog up their taxiways with automobile traffic and eventually force the airport to close.

"Affordable housing is a very important goal for the Town of Payson," he said. "(But) there's got to be a way to solve the problem without impacting the long-term viability of the airport."

The Payson Town Council will consider a rezoning request for the 203-home subdivision Thursday, and Henley said he and his neighbors plan to attend to voice their concerns.

But developer Bill Broce, who wants to build the affordable housing subdivision on 52 acres at the north end of Mazatzal Mountain Air Park, said he thinks Henley's concerns are unfounded.

"What it all boils down to for them is 'Not in my neighborhood,' he said. "If there was any other place in town to put it, I'd put it there. But there is no other place."

Broce will ask the council Thursday to change the zoning for the 52-acre parcel within the 1000 block of N. Chennault Parkway from 12,000-square-foot minimum lot sizes to 6,000-square-foot minimum lot sizes.

Lot sizes in his proposed subdivision, "Mountainaire," would range between 6,200 square feet and 30,573 square feet.

And, according to Broce's proposal, 1.74 acres would be utilized as a 30-foot to 100-foot buffer between the air park and the subdivision.

The nearby Mazatzal Mountain Air Park was originally planned for 111 homes, of which 12 have been built and are currently being used as residences.

All 12 of those homeowners, Henley said, plan to appear at the council meeting to voice their two main concerns: the longtime viability of the airport, and ground safety issues.

"The airport is important to those who live in the air park, because we all have airplanes and need to utilize the airport to take off and land," he said. "Studies done by the FAA ... show that the (primary) threat to an airport is residential encroachment. As that occurs, the more overflight and noise complaints you get. Airports have been shut down because of those complaints. We want to make sure this airport stays viable.

As for ground safety, Henley said, "We use town streets to taxi from our homes to the airport for takeoff. If we introduce a subdivision that is very close to the airport ... it could impact the ground safety issues. If someone introduced airplanes into your neighborhood, you'd go ballistic. We're the other way around; we've got airplanes and they're trying to introduce something incompatible with that."

Broce disagrees with both of those arguments.

"The medium-density zoning we're requesting is in the 2020 Payson Land Use Plan," he said. "The (Mazatzal Mountain Air Park lots) are currently zoned residential, and we're going to be behind them. We'll have noise attenuation and navigation easements in place that every owner will have to sign off on. The town has no liability at all.

"We're not using any of the (air park residents') streets. When the Forest Service land trade goes through, they're going to put in that loop road, and we'll enter from there. Also, (the Mountainaire subdivision) is going to be fenced off, there's going to be borders, there's going to be a buffer zone."

Town lawsuit

In other council matters, discussion of another item on the council agenda is reserved for councilmembers only. In executive session, Payson's politicos will consult with the town's attorneys regarding the pending litigation of "Ochs vs. Town of Payson, et al," which was filed March 31, 2000.

The plaintiff, Juliana J. Ochs, is a former employee of the Payson Police Department, said Sam Streichman, town attorney.

"Generally, (the lawsuit) falls under the heading of an employment-related lawsuit" and involves certain allegations by Ochs against the Payson PD, Streichman said. "If I tried to describe (the allegation) in further detail, I would have to discuss our position in regard to the allegation, and I can't do that."

Ochs also declined to comment.

The council meeting begins at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 22, at the council chambers at Town Hall, 303 N. Beeline Highway.

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