Diamond Star Says, 'No Deal, They Still Want Our Water'


They're not saying much about what was discussed, but members of the Diamond Star Water Coalition said their Monday meeting with town of Payson officials yielded few results.

Consequently, the coalition is redoubling its efforts to get the signatures needed for incorporation, and has scheduled a rally for Diamond Star residents at 7 p.m., Monday, Aug. 15 at the Moose Lodge in Star Valley.

"We still couldn't get anything definitive," coalition member Chris Benjamin said. "The concession they would want is water from us, and I don't know that we would be able to make any deal."

The town's deal is with local developer G. Michael Horton, who wants water from Star Valley to meet water credit requirements for three new developments his company, Scottsdale-based Terra Capital Group, wants to build in Payson.

The coalition, made up of Star Valley and Diamond Point Shadows residents, is conducting a petition drive to incorporate the Diamond Star area in hopes of better addressing dibs on the area's water supply.

Town Manager Fred Carpenter, Public Works Director Buzz Walker, Hydrologist Mike Ploughe, and Deputy Town Attorney Tim Wright along with the coalition, represented by President Bill Rappaport, Diamond Star Fire Chief Gary Hatch, attorney and Star Valley resident Art Lloyd, and Benjamin were among the participants of the meeting Monday at Payson Town Hall.

Town isn't budging

Contrary to early reports, coalition members said the town never offered to endorse the incorporation of Diamond Star, or to abandon either the annexation of the area or its intention to take water.

"They mentioned they would still be opposed to us incorporating," Benjamin said. "We're hoping they will change their minds on that, but we don't know why they would. There's nothing we can go to the bargaining table with."

Both sides characterized the meeting as an exchange of information, but Carpenter was much more optimistic.

"We had, I thought, a very nice discussion," he said. "It lasted two hours and 45 minutes."

While the town manager declined to discuss specifics of the meeting, he said the quantity of water the town planned to pipe out of Star Valley was clarified.

"They thought we were going to be bringing 3,000 gallons per minute (out of Star Valley), when in actuality it's around 600 -- a heck of a lot less," Carpenter said. "And we told them we would practice safe yield there just the same as we do anywhere else."

Neither is coalition

But Benjamin said the coalition hasn't learned anything new.

"We're getting tired of them saying we're misinformed," he said. "Our information comes from (credible sources); we're not making it up.

"The town isn't willing to give us information to say, ‘No, that's wrong, here's the documents,' so we felt meeting with them would help us better understand what their plans are, and for them to better understand what ours are."

Ultimately, Benjamin said the coalition left with the same issues with which they entered the meeting.

"We understand their plans are to pursue getting water, and our plans are to pursue incorporating," Benjamin said.

No councilors allowed

The coalition was also upset with Councilor Dick Reese's absence, Benjamin said. Reese made it clear he wanted to attend the meeting, but was told not to by Mayor Barbara Brewer at last Thursday's council meeting.

"I called the mayor on Friday because we thought we should have at least two council people there to sit in and witness this, and she was irate," Rappaport said. "She basically hung up on me."

Brewer said that's not the way it happened.

"I just told him, ‘No, it was a decision of the council,'" she said. "They didn't want any council members there, and there was nothing else to say."

Despite the coalition's misgivings about the meeting, Benjamin said he was "cautiously optimistic" about promises the town made to provide them with more information.

"We have a municipal attorney on staff and we now have a hydrologist and these reports are going down to him," Benjamin said. "He's going through them and dissecting them and coming back to us with a recommendation."

Carpenter hopes the two sides will continue to talk.

"I think they have some things to check out and so do I, and we'll probably get back together again and meet next week or something," he said.

Horton's track record

Some members of the coalition have questioned Horton's track record as a developer. A search of the Arizona Superior Court's documentation produced at least 10 lawsuits he has been involved in over the past 15 years.

Horton characterized the coalition's actions as "a personal attack," noting that lawsuits are a part of being a developer. Some of the litigation, he added, came out of the savings and loan crash of the late 1980s and early 1990s when the Resolution Trust Corporation declined to honor commitments to developers.

Horton said he is only the president of Terra Capital Group, and therefore his personal history as a developer should have no bearing on the project.

Carpenter agreed.

"I haven't looked into (Horton's background)," he said. "If they fulfill their end, I don't think it matters too much."

Coalition website

The Diamond Star Water Coalition's website, located at www.diamondstar.org, is now up and running.

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