Towns Draft Agreement Over Tower Well


A water agreement between the towns of Payson and Star Valley will come before the Payson Town Council Thursday night.

The document is the result of negotiations that began earlier this year to address the implementation of the Tower Well. Star Valley's elected officials have disagreed with the terms of the draft agreement, and in late November discussion stalled. Although Payson and Star Valley resolved some of the concerns during a Dec. 4 meeting, the contract still needs some work before it's formalized.

"We've done our review of it and made some changes to it," said Star Valley Mayor Chuck Heron. "Mainly, we're just talking about aquifer maintenance instead of safe yield."

Aquifer maintenance, Heron added, provides a long-term and quantifiable measure of the amount of water in the region. He said the safe yield number provides limited data on the input and output of water production.

The agreement puts limitations on the amount of water either town can draw out of the Tower Well. That number is based on an ongoing groundwater/safe-yield study commissioned by the Town of Payson and scheduled for completion by late January, according to Mike Ploughe, Town of Payson hydrogeologist.

The contract also requires both towns to accept the findings of the study and keeps Star Valley from disputing Payson's right to pump groundwater from its wells.

The Tower Well could be a viable source of water for Payson. Conservative estimates, according to water task force chairman, Lynn Godfrey, suggest the Tower Well -- at the east end of Star Valley -- could produce 1,500 gallons per minute and still maintain an equilibrium between recharge and output. Star Valley's 2,500 people are using a fraction of that amount.

Meanwhile, Payson must refrain from running the Tower Well except for routine maintenance, and once online, Payson agrees to mitigate any negative effects caused by water extraction.

The water agreement also calls for a six-member joint monitoring committee. Representatives from each town, including a water provider, will meet at least every six months to assess the situation.

"There could be some changes," said Town Manager Fred Carpenter. "Details have yet to be finalized."

Three growth-management ordinances

Three proposed growth-management ordinances that have been tabled twice over the past two months are back on the agenda. Ordinances 694, 695 and 696 address the future of Payson's economic development, housing market and growth plan.

Ordinance 694 will change the voting composition of the council, requiring two-thirds rather than three-fourths for rezoning applications. The council will consider a revised version of the ordinance. It calls for a two-thirds majority vote, either of all seven members of the council, or in the event of an absence or abstention, the remaining councilors.

The council will consider revisions to ordinances 695 and 696. If passed, 695 imposes a 250-unit annual limit on building in Payson, beginning in 2007.

Ordinance 696 repeals current water development requirements.

Both ordinances will come before the council with revised expiration dates, and 695 provides new wording for the terms of exempt development.

Chilson Ranch and Forest Edge

Two residential subdivisions -- both regulars on town council agendas -- come up again for council scrutiny.

Hurlburt Development is asking for approval on the development agreement for the 24-acre Chilson Ranch project.

If approved, the Chilson Ranch, located in a floodplain, will pass through several more phases, including preliminary platting and a Federal Emergency Management Agency review. Carpenter said these steps could delay the project for another two years.

The Forest Edge subdivision has gone through several incarnations since it first appeared on the council agenda nearly a year ago. The second reading of the rezoning application comes up for council consideration Thursday. If the 64-acre project fails to pass, the developers, Terra-Payson 65, could be forced to reapply for zoning. Recent plan changes include drainage improvements, better trails access and the donation of water credits to Habitat for Humanity's multifamily housing project.

Other items on the agenda

  • Council authorization for Airport Manager Ted Anderson to submit the Five-Year Airport Capital Improvement Program to the Federal Aviation Administration.
  • Amendments to the Town of Payson's sign ordinances.
  • Approval of $44,000 worth of erosion control fabric for the Parks and Recreation Department.
  • Passage of a townwide computer policy.
  • Final plat approval for the Falcon Lookout Phase 1 subdivision.

The Payson Town Council meets at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14, at town hall. To download the agenda and council packet visit

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