Developer Wants To Rezone For More Homes

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Mogollon Ridge -- one of the three subdivisions developer G. Michael Horton plans to use Star Valley water to build -- goes before the Payson Planning and Zoning Commission at 4 p.m. Monday.

At that time, the commission will "determine how a request for a change in zoning classification from R1-175 to R1-6 shall be recommended to the town council," according to the support document prepared by town staff. The requested zoning change reduces the required residential lot size from 175,000 square feet (300-feet-by-300-feet) to 6,000 square feet (60-feet-by-90-feet).

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Developer G. Michael Horton

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 documents, 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. Two groups have formed to oppose the town on the issue -- the Diamond Star Water Coalition and the Committee for Citizen-Based Growth.

While the documentation from planning and zoning vaguely refers to "a new, adequate water supply for additional development," Horton has told the Roundup that he intends to use Star Valley water for the project.

At a required citizens' participation meeting on Jan. 11, Horton told attendees that the 35-lot first stage would consist of houses that matched the residential character of the Payson Pines and Payson Ranchos neighborhoods. The second portion, he said, will consist of "29 units of multi-family housing" that will serve as a "transitional buffer" between the residential area and The Home Depot.

Among those who submitted written comments opposed to the project, Lori Meyers wrote:

"My main objection to this or any new project is water. We have not solved our water problem here in Payson yet. Until this issue is resolved, we should hold off on building before we end up like Pine. I do not like being told that I have to water only on certain days while more and more homes are being built."

Other residents in attendance expressed concern about increased traffic on McLane and Houston Mesa roads and the lack of a buffer zone between existing residences and the new subdivision.

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.

Steven Carder, one of Horton's partners in the Forest Edge project, told the Roundup all they have done is to comply with the town of Payson's established policy for "bringing water from an outside source."

"We believe we're within our legal rights, and we also believe at the end of the day the water that's going to come from our well to Payson is not going to harm Star Valley," he said.

Terra Capital maintains that the water it wants to take out of Star Valley comes from a different, deeper aquifer, and that the testing required by the town proves it.

But an independent hydrology report commissioned by the Diamond Star Water Coalition says there is no deeper aquifer.

"Statements expressed by the town indicating that new town wells tap a deeper confined aquifer not in communication with local shallow private wells are unfounded and highly unlikely," the study concludes.

Planning and zoning hearings are held in town council chambers at Payson Town Hall and are open to the public.

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