Changing Face Of Payson Growing Younger, Diverse

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Payson residents have gotten younger at least as a group.

According to the latest figures released from the 2000 census, the median age of Payson's 13,620 residents has dropped from 49.7 to 48.9 years of age.

The figures released from the U.S. Census Bureau show that Payson's population has increased by 62.6 percent during the past decade. And with that increase, the average Payson household has gotten a bit more crowded, with an average of 2.3 residents per house in 2000 compared to 2.23 people under each roof in 1990.

The population's ethnic mix also shifted slightly. Payson's minority population, which was 5.4 percent in 1990, nearly doubled during the past decade to 9.3 percent.

The most surprising statistic, Payson's Community Development Director Bob Gould said, is Payson's seasonal vacancy rate the number of people who call Payson home only part-time.

"For years and years from 1970, I think, to about 1990 we stayed right at about 23.3 percent," he said. That meant that during those two decades, about one-fourth of the homes in Payson were occupied by part-time residents.

"Then, in 1995, the seasonal vacancy rate dropped to 17.9 percent, then last year, it dropped to 17.1 percent," he said.

Town prognosticators expected the rate to go back up with the construction of two gated golf communities in east Payson Chaparral Pines and The Rim Club, he said, "but I guess those residents are living out there full-time, instead of using those homes as second homes."

Ray Pugel, owner/broker of Coldwell Banker Bishop Realty, subscribes to a different theory.

"I think the reason the seasonal rate has dropped is that the people who had part-time homes here in the '70s and '80s have now retired and are living in those homes full-time," he said. "We're selling a lot of our seasonal homes in Pine, Christopher Creek, Strawberry ... even as far north as Clear Creek."

Another surprising count, Gould said, was the number of people living in Payson's various group homes.

"We have more group quarters like Manzanita Manor and Powell House than we did in 1990," he said. Even so, he said, when you look at the increase over the past decade, its not significant. In 1990, Payson had 157 individuals living in group quarters. Last year's count shows 232 people were living in group homes an increase of nearly 15 percent.

Gould said he also was shocked by the decline of Payson's elderly population.

In the mid-decade census, 31 percent of Payson's residents were 65 years and older. The 2000 census shows that only 29.2 percent of the residents now fall in that category.

"The old misnomer that 60 percent of the town's population is retired was never true," he said. In 1995, 45 percent were over the age of 55, while last year, 42.4 percent fall in that category.

"In just about every other category, though," Gould said, "we haven't really had any surprises."

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