The Payson Town Council may not be able to maintain a festive atmosphere when it convenes at 6 p.m. Thursday for the last regular meeting before the holidays.
Heading an eight-page agenda is the request to rezone property for Mogollon Ridge, one of the three subdivisions developer G. Michael Horton plans to use Star Valley water to build. Already a controversial topic, the matter was made more so last month when only two members of the seven-member Planning and Zoning Commission made the decision to recommend the change to the council.
Horton, who has already received the council's approval to build a pipeline to take water from Star Valley for his Payson projects, seeks a change in zoning classification from R1-175 to R1-6. The requested zoning change reduces the required residential lot size from 175,000 square feet (300-by-300 feet) to 6,000 square feet (60-by-90 feet).
If the zoning change is granted, Horton plans to build a 35-lot subdivision on 8.2 acres of land behind The Home Depot at 2009 N. McLane Road and 215 W. Houston Mesa Road.
Horton originally submitted then withdrew a similar rezoning request for 12.4 acres at the same address. According to Planning and Zoning, he plans to submit the balance of the parcel for rezoning at a future date.
Horton's plans have stirred up considerable controversy because of his intention to take water from a private well in Star Valley to meet the building requirements, and because some Payson residents believe the town should not rezone parcels for higher density after leading them to believe the neighborhoods they bought into would retain their rural character.
When the matter came before Planning and Zoning Nov. 14, two members were absent and another two claimed a conflict of interest. Deputy Town Attorney Tim Wright told the commission that since a quorum was present at the beginning of the meeting, the remaining members could render a decision.
"As long as you have a quorum to start the meeting, which you did, if several members have conflicts on any one issue, the remaining members can address that issue," Wright told the commission.
But an attorney for Perkins, Cowie, Brown and Bain, a Phoenix law firm that specializes in media law, disagrees.
"(Based on) the cases I've looked at, it's my opinion that his opinion is wrong," attorney Mike Liburdi said. "Overwhelmingly they say that if you have a (situation) such as this and it drops your level underneath a majority of those members on the board such as what happened here, then you lose your quorum and you're not allowed to vote on that particular item.
With "yes" votes from commissioners Barbara Underwood, a candidate for the town council, and Mark Waldrop, the rezoning request was passed on to the council. The other two projects Horton wants to utilize Star Valley water to build are Forest Edge, a 64-acre, 54-homesite subdivision at the southeast end of Payson, and the Buckmaster property, 37 acres behind Bashas' supermarket.
Also on the council's holiday plate Thursday evening:
- A resolution designating excess Star Valley water the town is purchasing from George Randall and Roy Haught be used for the town's existing residents and not for new development. The resolution, proposed by Councilor Tim Fruth, also specifies that the two Star Valley wells designated as the Sky Run wells be used for monitoring purposes only.
The resolution only applies to the 130 gallons per minute the town is paying $750,000 for and not to the 400 gallons per minute Horton is taking from Star Valley for his Payson subdivisions.
- A first reading and public hearing for a zone change that will allow a 30-unit condominium subdivision to be built at 1900 N. Beeline Highway between The Home Depot and Ponderosa Baptist Church. The council approved the change last month.
- A proposed ordinance regulating the manner of sale of products containing pseudoephedrine, "a key ingredient in methamphetamine production." If passed, the ordinance will require retailers to require photo identification and record other information about customers purchasing such products.
"We got a model ordinance from the League of Cities," Town Manager Fred Carpenter said. "It's being adopted around the state."
- A council decision request to allow the Green Valley Redevelopment Area Committee to work with private property owners to implement the American Gulch concept.
"The American Gulch concept has been studied and discussed for many years," new Community Development Director Jerry Owen wrote in his request. "The GVRA Committee feels that the council's support of this concept can encourage private sector development in accordance with the vision...."
The 44-acre area known as American Gulch is west of Sawmill Crossing Shopping Center and runs behind the properties that front on the south side of Main Street. Its southern boundary is Aero Drive and its western boundary is Green Valley Park.
Currently most of the American Gulch, about 38 acres, sits in a flood plain. About 75 percent is privately owned and vacant, but much of it could be reclaimed for development if engineered flood control solutions are implemented.
The proposed American Gulch Plan would do just that, creating a 200-foot wide channel running from Sawmill Crossing to Green Valley Park. The channel would utilize just 12 acres from the floodplain, effectively freeing 26 acres for new development.
But while the channel is the backbone of the plan, it is considered a "multi-objective project." The plan envisions private retail, office and condominium development, with pedestrian walkways and bicycle paths alongside the channel.
"It would really create a people place," former Green Valley Redevelopment Committee Chairperson Blair Meggitt said.
"We want to see shops, restaurants, artisan's galleries, night life, park activities, cycling, walking, street parties," Meggitt added. "It's to extend that pride that we have with Green Valley Park all the way to Sawmill Crossing."