Council Steps Away From Diamond Star Incorporation

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The Payson Town Council took action on the Diamond Star incorporation issue, voting to inform area residents of its position not to take a position.

The decision was made following an executive session Thursday evening, with the council choosing the information option over four others presented to them by Town Attorney Sam Streichman.

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Judy Buettner, Vice Mayor

A group of residents from Diamond Point Shadows and Star Valley formed the nonprofit Diamond Star Water Coalition to stop G. Michael Horton and other developers from piping water to the town of Payson from their communities.

When the town did not respond to an initial petition, the coalition decided to proceed with the incorporation process.

"The events regarding the annexation/incorporation activities in Star Valley are moving along," Streichman told the council. "It has come to our attention that ... a blank petition for incorporation has been filed with the Gila County elections officer, together with an affidavit indicating that prior to that time a proper and legal annexation petition had been presented to the town and the town did not act on that petition for a period of 120 days, which is the statutory period."

The town argued that the initial petition presented by the coalition was illegal, in part because the legal description of the area was incorrect. Several councilors spoke to that effect during the meeting.

"I've been very concerned from the beginning that there's been so many questions about the validity of how this has been done," Vice Mayor Judy Buettner said. "I don't think the Star Valley people know what our concerns are, and I would like to get that clear to them -- not just to the group that is mostly pushing this."

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Chris Benjamin, Diamond Star Water Coalition

Councilor Dick Reese said he was concerned about the coalition's honesty.

"There is," he said, "misinformation, maybe even deception, heaven forbid, but at least misunderstanding and ignorance -- I say that respectfully. This is an opportunity to make sure that people we care about proceed knowing all the facts that are relevant and quantifying the issues they'll face."

Coalition members in attendance were disappointed by the decision and outraged by Reese's allegation.

"There was nothing illegal about it, nothing deceptive as Mr. Reese has said," coalition board member Chris Benjamin added. "That's a low blow."

Councilor Robert Henley noted that while the coalition talks about Payson and Diamond Star working on common issues once incorporated, the two communities have never worked together before.

Benjamin said the coalition has tried.

"We've called Streichman and asked him, we've called the town manager and asked him: how can we start the dialog?" he said.

Benjamin also pointed out that the coalition is backed by 350 Diamond Star residents, all of who signed a petition presented to the town requesting that they be allowed to incorporate. Benjamin's wife, Karen, also a member of the coalition board, warned the town not to take them lightly.

"The town of Payson needs to wake up," she said. "Don't ignore us. We're not going away.

"They're going to have to work with us. Sooner or later, they're going to have to do it, period."

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