Street Fight Dead Ends In Payson Subdivision

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The mayor abstained, and two owners of one lot voted twice one "yes" and one "no" but when the votes were all counted Monday at Town Hall, residents of the eastern half of Alpine Heights overwhelmingly rejected a proposed local improvement district by an 81-37 margin.

After proponents jumped out to an early 4-2 lead, a steady stream of "no" votes soon removed any suspense regarding the outcome. When asked if he intended to hold another election, Town Manager Rich Underkofler said, "I can count."

Robert Carr, leader of the drive to defeat the formation of the improvement district, confidently predicted victory before the count began. After the results were known he said, "We had to whip the mayor and his boys downtown a couple of times, and we did."

The battle, over whether to create the district to re-pave streets, add curbs and correct longstanding drainage problems, had inflamed emotions and split the subdivision virtually down the middle. Homeowner Ted Scholz, who led the faction in favor of forming the district, said it was necessary because the roads were not done right by the developer in the first place.

"There are no curbs," he said, "and we need the drainage pipe placed so runoff is directed properly down the hill. "Instead of crowning the road, the original builder made it V-shaped so the water wouldn't run down the edges of the road and it eroded property," he said.

Both sides originally claimed to have the signatures of a majority of the 138 property owners in the portion of the 250-lot subdivision that is included in the proposed district's boundaries. Alpine Heights is located in the northeast part of town, west of Tyler Parkway and Chaparral Pines.

A recount held Dec. 12 showed 62 opposed, 58 in favor, 13 who voted both for and against, and 5 who were not contacted or chose not to vote. With neither side winning a majority, the ground rules for a new election were agreed upon at a meeting on Dec. 27.

When ballots were counted Monday, three were disqualified. Seventeen lot owners failed to return ballots.

The results of the election will be presented to the Town Council at its regular meeting on Feb. 8, at which time plans for the improvement district are expected to be dropped.

Had property owners voted to establish the district, homeowners would have been obligated to pay half the cost of the repairs as much as $5,000 a lot with the town paying the other half. The town had committed $685,000 to the project.

The controversy was complicated by the fact that Payson Mayor Ray Schum, who lives in Alpine Heights, was actively involved as a proponent of the new district. The mayor, who denied he had a conflict of interest, said, "What we hope to achieve with Alpine Heights is to show other communities in town that don't have rolled curbs and gutters how to do something like this that the town will try and match funds."

Another point of contention was the way the subdivision was split so that the western portion, where Carr says more people who are opposed to an improvement district live, was left out. Underkofler admitted he "gerrymandered" the district to "find a place where I can get support."

The matter stirred much debate among town residents, as indicated by several letters to the Roundup and numerous calls to KMOG. A central issue was whether the town, in asking residents to pay half the cost of repairs, was reneging on an earlier commitment to maintain the subdivision's streets.

In a letter accompanying his ballot, Alpine Heights resident Gerald Reynolds said that despite his "yes" vote, he was "strongly opposed to the strong-arm approach (Underkofler's) office has taken in proposing that the property owners of our subdivision accept a proposal that is very expensive for them."

Reynolds said he voted for the district because "...to do otherwise will give the town a reason to abandon all future street repairs in this subdivision...."

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