The Committee for Community-Based Growth submitted petitions Monday morning bearing the signatures of more than 1,900 Payson voters requesting that the council decision to buy Star Valley water be put to a town-wide vote.
The petitions were circulated by 50 volunteers over a 16-day period.
"Walking door-to-door, we were getting a 90 percent response rate," Kathy Baas, a committee member, said. "The vast majority of the people wanted to sign.
"People were even calling us up to have us come by and get their signature because they were so emotional about this issue."
The petition seeks a referendum on resolution 2098 passed by the council on Aug. 25 by a 4-2 vote. The resolution authorizes paying George Randall and Roy Haught $750,000 for excess water from a Star Valley well that developer G. Michael Horton plans to use to meet the water requirements for three new subdivisions in Payson.
"Most of the voters were well-informed on the issue and felt strongly that taking water from our neighbors in order to build over 1,000 new homes in Payson was the wrong thing to do," Bob Edwards, committee chairperson, said.
The petitions, contained in two boxes, were accepted by Silvia Smith, town clerk, and Marci Huffman, deputy town clerk.
"We have 15 days to process them, according to the statute, and then we hand deliver them to the Gila County Recorder and they have 10 days to do the signature verification," Huffman said.
"If everything is a go, then it would go on the ballot of the March 14 election."
That election, the town council primary, will be conducted exclusively by mail. In the meantime, Resolution 2098 is on hold.
Councilor Dick Reese, who, along with Councilor George Barriger, voted against Resolution 2098, was impressed with the petition.
"A great many people don't want this effort to go forward," he said. "For me, for Dick Reese to turn his back on such a formidable outpouring of emotion and resentment and opposition is wrong."
Councilor Robert Henley called it part of the process.
"It is an indication of a lot of frustration in the community, and this is a way they can express that frustration," he said.
The Committee for Community-Based Growth was established because of "increasing concerns with the actions of the town of Payson commissions, staff, council members and mayor relative to growth issues," Edwards said in a news release.
"The passing of Resolution 2098 in defiance of wide public outcry was the ‘final straw' that caused these concerned citizens to come together and establish the committee."