by Jim Keyworth
roundup staff reporter
Despite serious concerns about the status of the Main Street extension project, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved conditional use permits for two medical office buildings Monday.
The buildings, one 12,000- and one 15,000-square-feet, will be constructed on a two-acre parcel in the 200 block near the end of the proposed East Main Street extension. Their proximity to Payson Regional Medical Center, which is currently building a $4.5-million addition that includes two new wings and a Main Street entrance, would "provide more health services for Payson's citizens at a convenient location," according to the report prepared for the meeting by Rudy Frost, town zoning administrator.
Other advantages cited by Frost in recommending approval of the project include stimulation of business opportunities in the area and "potentially a proper access to the vital services of the hospital." The matter of "proper access" which translates to the extension of Main Street east from Highway 87 to PRMC was one concern expressed by the commission.
"Our questions were related to the big picture more than this specific project," said Ruth Craig, commission chairperson. "I talked to the project developer, Jon Cheney, in the parking lot, and he is working with Russell Judd to get that done."
Cheney has even approached Walgreen's Drug Store about selling the property at the southwest corner of Highway 87 and Longhorn where the company plans to build a new store and building instead on the site now occupied by the Pioneer Bar on the northeast corner of Highway 87 and East Main Street.
"It's a perfect place for either a Walgreens or an Osco," Cheney said.
Public Works Engineer LaRon Garrett said the town is working with the property owners between PRMC and Highway 87 to try to put the Main Street extension together.
"We have an agreement with a couple of them to put money into Main Street if it happens within the next year," Garrett said.
According to Cheney, both he and PRMC have made substantial financial commitments to completing East Main Street.
"I can't tell you how much the hospital has committed, but my share will be $200,000," Cheney said.
A major piece of the puzzle is Russell Maughan, an Illinois resident who owns the bar, the house behind it and most of the rest of the property through which Main Street would pass.
"He is supposed to submit plans and a bid from a general contractor to the town within 12 months," Cheney said.
"When that happens, we kick in our money."
In the meantime, access to the new medical buildings will be via Ponderosa Street, Craig said.
"The buildings will be split by East Main Street, so they'll do a cul de sac with a rolled curb that can be taken out if Main Street goes through," she said.
Another concern expressed by the commission was drainage in the area. Garrett said the town has done a conceptual plan to solve the drainage problem, but that detention basins, which are required by state law, are the only answer in the interim.
"We don't like detention basins," Craig said. "There's a new rule going before the town council that these pools be dispersed within 36 hours, but who's going to enforce it?"
Yet another concern to the commission is the eventual fate of the Pioneer Bar and a burned-out house behind it. Transients have occupied both structures in the past, and vandalism has also been a problem.
"A lot of the commission has a problem with that burned-out house and boarded-up bar," Craig said. "Nobody seems to want to do anything about it."
Garrett told the commission that Maughan has agreed to have the area cleaned up and the two structures secured by Sept. 7.
Meanwhile Cheney is moving forward with the two medical buildings, which he hopes to have occupied and open by next spring.
"Architecturally, we are trying to keep with Payson's Western theme," he said. "But we don't want to be too Old West, because people don't want to go into a medical building that seems old fashioned. It needs to have a state-of-the-art feel, too."
Cheney envisions an eventual medical campus occupying virtually all the property between PRMC and Highway 87.
"The hospital is leasing the majority of the space in these first two buildings," he said. "They have some doctors in temporary units on hospital property who really need better facilities. But down the road, when the growth warrants it, I'd like to add additional buildings. I was involved in similar development around the hospital in Show Low, and it is really an asset to the community to have all these medical facilities together in one place."