Despite Recommendations, Council Drops Proposed Speed Limit Increase On Tyler

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The most exciting part of the Payson Town Council meeting Thursday night just might have been watching Mayor Ray Schum, a career Marine, double-step his troops through a marathon agenda.

That and the way Steve Johnson, Leonard Little and a smattering of Tyler Parkway residents cowed the council into backing off a speed limit increase from 25 mph to 40 mph on the roadway that provides motorists with a less congested alternative for getting from Highway 87 to Highway 260 and vice versa.

The meeting agenda, along with supporting documents and position papers, was nearly an inch thick, so despite Schum's best effort, the session still lasted nearly three hours. But when the mayor mercifully gaveled the proceedings to a close, the Tyler Parkway residents weren't the only ones celebrating a victory.

The 28-acre Highlands at the Rim mixed-use development was enthusiastically approved with only Coucilmember Hoby Herron casting a dissenting vote. Representatives of the project came fully armed with a scale model and other promotional materials, but left smiling with their arsenal still sheathed.

Herron objected to a section of the proposed development agreement that seemed to imply the developer would not be penalized for walking away and leaving the project unfinished. When the town's legal counsel confirmed that interpretation, Herron remarked, "And if that happens, the homeowners will be in here asking us to complete it."

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, plus 88 duplex attached townhomes and 38 single-family homes.

Speeding along

The brouhaha over the Tyler Parkway speed limit, which came near the end of the meeting, began with a brief presentation by Payson Police Chief Gordon Gartner who explained that a study of existing traffic revealed that the 85th percentile speed on the parkway is 40.5 mph.

Based on those numbers, Gartner recommended the increase to 40 mph. "The normal standard used to adjust speed limits is the 85th percentile," he said.

That's when Johnson and Little joined the fray, arguing that the sparsely settled roadway goes through a residential neighborhood, the only one in town with a speed limit above 25 mph. Johnson claimed he verified this by personally driving through every residential neighborhood in town.

Even the fact that Tyler Parkway was designed to handle 45 mph traffic failed to dissuade the residents, with Little arguing that since residents are already driving 40 mph, they will simply go 55 mph if the speed limit is increased. With other Tyler residents in the audience clapping and otherwise offering verbal support, despite the mayor's repeated admonitions that the loudest cheering section does not win, the council decided to take no action, effectively killing the recommended increase.

Town parks

Another issue that reappeared at the meeting was the proposed changes in the town code relating to the uses and abuses of town parks. The revisions would eliminate some controversial restrictions on use of the gazebo at Green Valley Park while banning amplification equipment, including car radios and portable stereos, at that facility.

Mary Little, president of the 265-member Payson Horseman's Association, argued that the Payson Event Center should be open for public use at all times.

"Horses are a major interest in this area," Little said, "and just as the town provides soccer fields for people who play soccer, so should it provide facilities for horse people."

She argued that the practice arena at the new rodeo grounds is not yet adequate, but Parks and Recreation Director Bill Schwind disagreed, pointing out that the 180 by 120-foot facility was sized to accommodate all rodeo events.

In the end, the code changes were tabled pending more information on whether the town's liability insurance, which excludes rodeos, protects the town when people are working their horses in the practice arena.

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