by The Elk Ridge Board of Directors
Rumors, speculation and misinformation regarding the proposed land exchange between the Tonto Apache Tribe and the U.S. Forest Service have been circulating throughout the Elk Ridge, Rim View and Pinion Ridge communities.
To arrange for a fact-finding meeting, the Board of Directors of the Elk Ridge Homeowners Association contacted the Tonto Apache Tribal Council through its attorney, Lat Celmins. A meeting was held May 23, which cleared the air with facts presented directly from the Tribal Council. The following information (was presented) at the meeting.
An elder of the Tribal Council stated that when Congress was first approached for land for the tribe in the early 1970s, Congress offered it all the land surrounding the Town of Payson to the East Verde River. This land would have included the communities of Elk Ridge, Rim View, Pinion Ridge, etc.
However, the elders of the Tribal Council were not greedy, and at that time elected to request only 85 acres, which was one acre for each member of the Tribe. Now that the tribe has expanded, and their children have grown and have families of their own, there is need for additional land for housing.
The current Tribal Council stated that the land that may be acquired by the proposed land exchange will be used for tribal residences only. If the land exchange is completed, the initial plan for housing is for 20 to 25 homes. The homes will be constructed to comply with current building codes, and will be inspected by professional building inspectors.
The tribe intends to construct homes that will be of equal quality to many of the newer homes in Payson. The exchange land, if put into trust status, cannot be sold.
The tribe currently has a mutual agreement to compensate the Town of Payson for public safety, utilities, etc. This will not change. The tribe will continue this arrangement for the additional homes to be constructed on the proposed land exchange.
The tribe still has its Central Arizona Project water allotment, and plans to use this allotment to develop its own water supply.
Because of past emergencies, which blocked the only entry to their current residences, the tribe plans to construct a road that will connect to Phoenix Street. The road will be gated and locked, and used only for emergencies.
The council stated that all of its plans are not final at this time because the proposed land exchange is still one to two years away from completion. The tribe has contributed to the community of Payson, and (its members) have been good neighbors in the past. They don't plan or want to change this friendly arrangement. They want to keep the lines of communication open in the future.