After all but assuring them otherwise, the Payson Town Council opted to do nothing on the Diamond Star Water Coalition's request to incorporate at its regular meeting Thursday evening.
Town Attorney Sam Streichman said little to guide the council and Public Works Director Buzz Walker wasn't even at the meeting, leaving the council to ask questions, many of a technical nature, of coalition spokesman Randy Roberson. Many of his responses began with, "I'm not a lawyer, but ..."
The coalition, comprised of residents of Star Valley and Diamond Point Shadows wants to incorporate in part to stop a local developer from taking water out of Star Valley for projects in Payson.
Town Manager Fred Carpenter had recommended that the council "decline to support the incorporation of the Diamond Star area," but included three other options, one of which was "do nothing."
In a background paper on incorporation prepared by Streichman, he explained that under Arizona law, Payson must approve the incorporation within 120 days of the presentation of a legal petition. If the town fails to act, the coalition can ask the Gila County Board of Supervisors to proceed with the incorporation process.
Streichman said the petition initially presented by the coalition was not legal because an outdated legal description of the area was used, and the petition wasn't filed with the county first. Attorney Art Lloyd, a Star Valley resident who prepared the petition, said after the meeting that the petition is legal, and that the 120 days are running out on the town.
During the meeting, Streichman told the council the matter of the legality of the petition could end up in court.
The decision to take no action contradicts the message the council sent on March 10, when councilor after councilor assured the coalition that incorporation would be approved if the group could demonstrate a consensus among the residents of the Diamond Star area. The coalition subsequently submitted petitions bearing the names of 373 registered voters from Star Valley and Diamond Point. (There are 1,213 registered voters in the area.)
Coalition members Chris and Karen Benjamin, owners of the Sky Run RV Resort, were also assured at a meeting with Mayor Barbara Brewer and Vice Mayor Judy Buettner several weeks ago that the council would go along with Diamond Star's desire to incorporate.
Buettner said she spoke out of turn when she met with the Benjamins.
"I talked to the Benjamins and felt comfortable with what we were saying, and then when I got the agenda I saw Fred was recommending denial," she said. "I called him and he brought up things I hadn't even thought about."
One issue that Chris Benjamin took exception to is that the coalition has no idea what incorporation entails and that the Diamond Star area will generate insufficient revenue.
"It's none of their concern, No. 1," he said. "We do know what our tax base is. We have met with the (Arizona) League of Cities and Towns. We've met with the people in Dewey-Humboldt (a community that recently incorporated). We've seen their budget. We've projected our budget. We know what our shares of revenues are from the five different levels we would get money from."
During the council meeting, coalition spokesperson Randy Roberson said the basic issue is self-determination.
"We are not asking you for anything you don't already enjoy," he said.
Roberson also chided the council for coveting its neighbors' possessions, a reference to Star Valley tax revenues as well as its water.