Restaurant Manager Fears Town Highway Plan Will Reroute Business

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McDonald's manager Larry Best is worried a proposal to extend the median on Highway 260 from Highway 87 to South Goodnow Road will drive him out of business.

The Payson Town Council will consider the proposal, which is part of a joint project between the town and the Arizona Department of Transportation to relieve traffic congestion at the Beeline-Highway 260 intersection, during its 6 p.m. meeting Thursday at Town Hall.

"That will kill us," Best said. "It will cut us in half."

In a memo to McDonald's owner Abe Martinez Jr., Payson Town Manager Rich Underkofler said that a new traffic signal at the entrance to Payson Village Shopping Center at South Goodnow Road "will provide a left turn signal for your traffic."

Best disagrees.

"I honestly don't think the light will do any good because people will have already passed it before they realize it's the only way into McDonald's," he said. "We are going to lose all our business coming from Heber and Show Low."

Underkofler also told Martinez that a sign alerting motorists to turn into McDonald's at the signal is unlikely because "ADOT will not allow you to install an off-premise sign in their right-of-way" and the private land to the south is owned by Jack-in-the-Box.

The change also could affect customer traffic at Taco Bell and other businesses near the intersection.

Other improvements at the intersection will include an additional right turn lane on Highway 87 southbound and additional right and left turn lanes on Longhorn, Underkofler said. The changes should relieve congestion at the town's busiest intersection.

Green Valley growth

The council also will consider an infill incentive plan for the recently designated Green Valley Infill Incentive District. The major provisions of that plan would amend the town code to relax peak water demand limits to 60 equivalent residential units, and to enable waivers of plan review and building permit fees and underwriting of development impact fees for affordable housing and economic development projects. The incentive district is in an area generally bound by the Beeline Highway on the east, McLane Road and Oak Street on the west, Bonita and Summit streets on the north, and national forest land and the Tonto Apache Reservation on the south.

According to Community Development Director Bob Gould, the current code specifies that the developers of projects that will use more than 20 ERUs find their own water supply, "which is virtually impossible." By relaxing that requirement, officials hope to encourage new development in the infill district, which includes Main Street.

To qualify for the relaxed water standard, developers of affordable housing must agree to limit occupancy to residents with incomes that do not exceed the Gila County median family annual income and to charge rents that do not exceed 120 percent of the fair market monthly rent in Gila County. Economic development projects must add value to the economy by new capital investment, create jobs and increase the town's sales tax revenue.

Although it is not on the agenda, another issue that could command council attention Thursday night is the relocation of The Door Stop, a cabinet door manufacturing company from Chandler, to five acres of land south of the airport. The company is expected to create up to 75 jobs in the Rim country with annual wages in the high $20s.

Owners James and Sioux Hill plan to attend their first council meeting along with many of the local residents who have already contacted The Door Stop for jobs. In a letter to those 60-plus job seekers, James Hill explained that his company's move to Payson was "far from a certainty.

"While we have many, many Payson area supporters who want to see well-paying jobs in Payson, there are also those who don't feel that job growth should be a priority," Hill wrote. Because many who oppose job growth show up at town council meetings, Hill encouraged those who support the move to attend the meeting.

Hill said he has campaign buttons and brochures ready to hand out at the meeting. "We want the council to feel like referees leaving a basketball court thinking they might get mugged," he said. "We're going to a full-court press on this."

Hill is concerned about people who have recently addressed the council questioning how much a "deal" with The Door Stop will cost the town. The town begins accepting competitive bids on the land in question today (Tuesday).

The minimum bid for the five-acre parcel is $225,000. The legal description, which is listed in the legals section of today's Roundup, says that "...economic benefits accruing from each bid are important to the Town of Payson and will be considered in evaluating bids ..."

The Hills will be available before and after the meeting to answer questions about The Door Stop's relocation to Payson, and to accept resumes and employment applications, according to a press release issued by the company. Hill explained that he also is in negotiations with Chandler to remain in that city, and must make a decision soon.

The council agreed to sell the company the town-owned land west of the Payson Municipal Airport, currently occupied by a town maintenance yard, at a special council meeting on Dec. 11. The Hills plan to build a new, 40,000-square-foot manufacturing facility that can be expanded to 80,000 square feet within three years.

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