28-Acre Highlands Development Tops Council Agenda


The Payson Town Council will consider entering into a development agreement with Highlands at the Rim, a proposed 28-acre mixed-use community that includes commercial development, townhomes and single family homes, at its regular meeting Thursday at 6 p.m. in Town Hall.

The new development will be built on land immediately south of Highway 260 and on either side of the not-yet-completed South Tyler Parkway. It includes an upscale commercial center on six acres consisting of 20,000 square feet of professional office space, a 4,600-square-foot restaurant, 10,000 square feet of retail space, a 4,500-square-foot country store/patio garden, and a 3,000-square-foot clubhouse with indoor pool and tennis court.

According to the developer, Frank K. Christopher of Paradise Valley, "The center will provide casual and formal dining for the professional and retail businesses and will complement the future Highlands residential community as well as the neighboring communities of Chaparral Pines, the Rim Golf Club, and the Town of Payson."

The 88 townhomes, referred to as "mountain villas," will be duplex attached units, each with 2-car garages, while the 38 single family homes, called "forest homes," will also have 2-car garages. The townhomes will occupy land east of South Tyler Parkway, while the single family homes will be built on land west of that roadway.

The development agreement the council will consider recites "significant planning and economic benefits" that will accrue to the town, including increased sales taxes and new jobs. In return, the town will "cooperate in allowing timely construction of the public infrastructure improvements," and provide municipal services including fire and police protection.

The developer owns two wells with a capacity of 135 gallons-per-minute, according to the agreement, sufficient to meet the needs of the project. The developer will dedicate the wells to the town, and the town will then provide water to the property. With all commercial and residential units equipped with fire sprinklers, the development would also be "Payson's first fully fire sprinkled community."

According to Community Development Director Robert Gould, the project has gone through the pre-application process before the Planning and Zoning Commission, and is now ready for the council's consideration. Contrary to rumors, Gould said the project is not related to The Rim Club.

"The two developers are sharing the improvements to Tyler Parkway," Gould said, "but that is their only connection. Because of Highlands at the Rim, there will be more improvements to the parkway."

In keeping with the town's hillside ordinance, the development plan requires minimal disturbance of natural vegetation and "promotes a project in harmony with the mountainous terrain."

According to Christopher, "Our goal is to maintain a forest setting, featuring native trees and maintaining a native, natural environment."

In keeping with that philosophy, he said that homes will be designed and placed to complement views of the Rim and concern for rock outcroppings, trees, and solar orientation.

Also on the council agenda for Thursday evening is a request to transfer $36,205 from the town's general plan update account to the development planner account to add a Main Street Project Manager position to the town payroll. The Arizona Main Street Program, which recently designated Payson as an Arizona Main Street Community, requires the appointment of a full-time project manager.

Rumors that Barry Cardinael, who helped with the development of the Payson Event Center, is being seriously considered for the position are just that, according to Gould.

"There is absolutely nothing going on relative to that," he said. "There is no truth to that."

The recommendation that the new coordinator be a town employee is based on the premise that it would allow the town to maintain greater control over the project than if it were a contract position. The position would be incorporated into the Community Development Department, Housing/Redevelopment Division.

Another item of interest on a jam-packed agenda is a recommendation to increase the speed limit to 40 mph on Tyler Parkway from Highway 260 to Highway 87. According to Public Works Engineer LaRon Garrett, the recommendation is based on a four-day study by the Payson Police Department that indicated the increase from 25 mph is justified.

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