Residents To Weigh In On 'New Economy'

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Town residents will have two opportunities next week to provide input on zoning changes designed to encourage economic development by relaxing regulations on home-based businesses.

The first public hearing will be Monday, May 21 at 4 p.m., when the Payson Planning and Zoning Commission holds a special meeting at Payson Town Hall to determine what changes it will recommend to the town council. Then at 5 p.m. Thursday, the council will hold a special meeting to consider those recommendations.

The issue was first raised at an April 12 council meeting, when Town Manager Rich Underkofler presented suggested changes that would "facilitate economic development of home-based businesses doing trade and providing services over the Internet."

He said the changes were in keeping with action plans designed to aid the town's transition to the "new economy" adopted by the council in January as part of its Focused Future Plan.

"Some of our zoning regulations on home occupations are regarded as a constraint on the future development of Payson's transition to the 'new economy,'" Underkofler said. "The 'new economy' generally means transactions over the Internet."

After an extended debate, the council voted unanimously to authorize the planning and zoning commission to recommend changes that would then be brought back to the council where public hearings would be held before their enactment.

At the regular planning and zoning commission meeting Monday, Underkofler led a discussion of a draft of proposed changes that reflected the commission's previous input and concerns.

"The suggested amendments ... completely overhaul home-based regulations to protect surrounding residential areas..." while also helping Internet-based home businesses, he told the commission.

But the draft also expands the scope of the changes to apply to all home-based businesses rather than just Internet-based businesses. A home-based business is defined in the document as "any business, occupation or commercial activity undertaken within a residential structure that is incidental and secondary to the use of that structure as a dwelling unit."

The draft permits up to 25 percent of a house and permitted accessory structures to be used for a home-based business, with a conditional use permit required to use additional space. The current regulations allow only 20 percent of the principal residential structure to be used for a home-based business.

Other changes to the existing regulations include an expanded list of prohibited home-based businesses.

While the current regulations only ban barber and beauty salons, auto repair, sales offices and pet grooming businesses, the new draft also prohibits sales of goods delivered to customers on the premises; kennels, stables and medical, dental and veterinary clinics; restaurants, clubs and drinking establishments; undertaking and funeral parlors; and adult entertainment and retail establishments, and adult theaters.

Underkofler told the commission he also added a new section on operational standards, including permitted hours of operation, limitations on visible or audible indications of business activity and a prohibition of advertising signs on the exterior of the premises.

To allay planning commissioners' concerns about 18-wheelers in residential areas, delivery vehicles would be limited to the types used by Federal Express and United Parcel Service, and only one commercial vehicle not to exceed one ton in weight could be stored on the premises.

Under the proposed changes, home-based businesses could have one nonresident employee working on the premises, with a conditional use permit required for additional nonresident employees. Previous regulations prohibited nonresident employees.

When an Alpine Heights resident complained that the new regulations were less stringent than that subdivision's covenants, conditions and restrictions, Commissioner Robert Flibotte said where two sets of regulations co-exist, the stronger of the two takes precedence.

The special council meeting Thursday will begin with a presentation on the new economy by Mary Jo Waits of Arizona State University's Morrison Institute.

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