Good News In Water Report, But Caution Urged


Whether you can wash your car or fill the kids' wading pool this summer will be determined at the regular Payson Town Council meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday.

The council will decide the town's water conservation level for the next year after hearing Public Works Director Buzz Walker and Hydrologist Mike Ploughe deliver the 2005 water status report. And despite the historic bill that will one day bring water from Blue Ridge Reservoir, despite the fact that residents reduced daily consumption the past year, and despite record rainfall totals for last summer and winter, the report recommends stage II water conservation restrictions for the period of April 2005 through May 2006.

The reasoning behind the recommendation is that the town must take whatever steps are necessary to maintain "safe yield" -- whereby usage does not exceed the amount of water by which the town's aquifer(s) are replenished.

With Blue Ridge water approximately 10 years away and most experts predicting a return to drought conditions, the council should exercise restraint, according to the report.

If, as expected, the council goes along with the report's recommendations, Payson water customers will be freed from stricter level III restrictions in effect the past 12 months. While such restrictions as no new grass, no hosing of sidewalks and driveways, no water wasting or fugitive water, no watering native plants, no watering from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and alternate day watering will remain in place, cars can be washed on alternate days and pools, spas and wading pools can be filled under level II restrictions.

Star Valley water

The town may be moving ahead with its plans to accept water from wells in Star Valley despite assuring the Diamond Star Water Coalition that it will work with them to allow that community to become incorporated so "they can vote to close the doors to water projects such as this."

But it's unclear what it will mean if the council approves Resolution 2052, "authorizing the mayor to execute an agreement with Terra-Payson 40 and Terra-Star Valley 40." As of press time, the actual agreement was not available, and Town Manager Fred Carpenter and Mayor Barbara Brewer offered conflicting statements.

Carpenter said the agreement means the developer has met all conditions set out in a letter of assurance from the town.

That letter, approved by the council and signed by Walker, assures the developer that water pumped from the well site and piped via an Arizona Department of Transportation right-of-way to the town's water system will meet town water requirements for "future projects" with certain conditions, including that the wells do not impact other wells in Star Valley.

"They went out and proved the resource to the satisfaction of the water department, so there's an agreement now that would reflect that," Carpenter said. "They've proven that there's a legally available, unencumbered water supply out there."

Chris Benjamin, one of the leaders of the coalition, was incredulous.

"Isn't that something," he said. "I've got my lawyer putting a letter together, so they are going to know that (the water from the Star Valley wells) is encumbered and inhibited."

But the mayor said the agreement before the council does not indicate that all conditions have been met.

"It means we'll negotiate a memorandum of understanding with the (developer)," she said. "It still has to be proven out, but if it is, then we will continue."

Design review guidelines

The council also will take up the design review ordinance recently approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission. The purpose of the new ordinance as stated in its introduction is to change the architectural emphasis of the town's business corridors from contemporary to rustic.

"The impetus behind the development of these regulations is the preservation of our mountain forest character as applicable to a small rural community," the document reads. Applicable to all commercial and industrial-zoned areas with the exceptions of Sky Park Industrial Park and the Green Valley Redevelopment Area, the new ordinance favors natural landscaping and the preservation of natural features such as large trees, rock outcrops and view sheds.

It applies to all new construction, but only to the portions of existing buildings that are being remodeled, repainted, or re-signed.

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