Flood Plain Plan Will Free Up 26 Acres For New Development

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The American Gulch Plan, left for dead in February, has been resurrected -- but this time taxpayers will not be footing the bill.

At its regular meeting Thursday evening, the Payson Town Council unanimously approved the American Gulch Plan as a concept and directed the Green Valley Redevelopment/Main Street Committee to work with private property owners to implement it.

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Dick Wolfe, chairman of the Green Valley Redevelopment/Main Street Committee, and Carol McCauley, Main Street Manager, examine a model of the American Gulch Plan. The model is currently at Payson Town Hall, but will soon be moved to the Main Street office at Green Valley Park.

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.

The plan suffered a setback in February when a fiscal impact study by a private firm determined it was not economically feasible. The study raised the estimated cost of the project to $5.9 million.

At the time, Dick Wolfe, former town councilor and chairman of the committee, told the council the plan would be reworked and brought back to the council. On Thursday he explained that the emphasis for funding the project has shifted from public to private.

"We propose a very positive alternative, and we come to you not to ask for funding, but for you to approve a concept, a vision of what the town wants the American Gulch to be in the future."

Following a PowerPoint presentation by committee member Andy Romance, detailing the new funding strategy, Councilor George Barriger asked for assurance that the town would not end up funding at least a part of the project.

"We will require resources from the town of Payson, if those resources mean leadership," Romance responded. "But it does not mean money."

Town Manager Fred Carpenter also came to the project's defense.

"I asked (new Community Development Director) Jerry Owen to work very carefully to draft a motion for you that is absent any commitment of financial resources," he said. "It's just saying to these folks, here's a concept that we like.

"You work with the private sector, (and) everything you do has to be in conformance with sound engineering principles. We're asking the private sector to go out and build this.

"They may donate it to us to manage when it's all done, and then our cost would be in managing it. There's a certain amount of cost associated with it, but it's not near what the capital costs would be."

Other town developments:

  • The council voted 5-1 (Councilor Robert Henley was absent) Thursday evening to approve a motion proposed by Councilor Tim Fruth that water the town purchases from George Randall and Roy Haught and pipes to town from Star Valley be used exclusively for existing Payson residents and not new development.

"One of the purposes I had and I wanted addressed is that if we received this water that the town purchased we make sure it's not used as new water," Fruth said.

The motion also included using two other Star Valley wells, known as the Sky Run wells, for monitoring purposes only.

Reese, who first read a prepared statement, cast the lone dissenting vote:

"This resolution affords an opportunity, in my judgment, to feel better about a divisive issue that should never have gotten to this point -- namely the town's participation in a transaction that poses a potential threat to our Diamond Star neighbors," he said. "Plus, we shouldn't need a resolution to demonstrate that the public can trust us in executing our responsibility to manage water resources."

  • The council did not have to vote on G. Michael Horton's rezoning request for Boulder Creek subdivision behind The Home Depot. The developer, who wants to use Star Valley water for the project, asked that it be pulled from the agenda and rescheduled for the Jan. 12 meeting.
  • The council will hold a special meeting tonight (Tuesday) at 5 p.m. to accept a proposal for the town employee market salary study; to extend the contract of Nielson-Fackler Planning and Development, the town's consultants for the Payson Event Center proposal; and to reappoint Mike Amon to the Green Valley Redevelopment Area Committee.

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