P&Z Board Appointment Attracts Opposition

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Appointments to the town's various boards and commissions usually go unchallenged as consent agenda items at town council meetings, but not these days.

With another near-full house in attendance Thursday evening, Councilor Robert Henley pulled the appointment of Hal Baas to the Payson Planning and Zoning Commission from the consent agenda, citing concerns expressed by several constituents.

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The Payson Town Council unanimously appointed Hal Baas, a retired engineer, to the Payson Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday.

Baas is chairman of the Committee for Community-Based Growth, the nonprofit group that collected more than 1,900 signatures on petitions in a so far-unsuccessful effort to place the town's decision to take water from Star Valley on the ballot.

While Baas was eventually appointed to the commission by a 7-0 vote of the council, a protracted debate on the subject stretched the meeting to more than three hours in length.

Developer G. Michael Horton offered the first objection to the appointment in the public comment portion of the meeting.

"While I'm not questioning Mr. Baas' qualifications -- I'm not aware of what they are -- he is one of the proponents of the group that is the litigant against the town on the referendum, and I just wondered if it was the town's policy to appoint individuals who are suing the town to various boards?" he asked.

Baas immediately asked for an opportunity to respond, but Mayor Barbara Brewer said the item should be taken up in the order it was agendized -- at the end of the meeting. By that time, Horton had left the meeting, but Bob McQueen of Coldwell Banker Commercial, took up the cause.

"I think the issue is more no growth than it is no water ...," he said. "I'm concerned with putting anybody in leadership that is trying to control growth when we don't have growth .... I don't think that we can afford to have them on the P and Z, on the council, or as mayor, or as staff members."

Councilor after councilor took up Baas' cause.

"We do try to get a cross section of representation," Councilor George Barriger said. "I think we most recently appointed a developer to the Planning and Zoning Commission, and I think we already have other developers on there now."

Councilor Dick Reese then noted that no one in the room is in favor of zero growth.

"I think we're in favor of responsible growth," he said. "I think we're concerned to the person, in the aggregate, about water."

Baas, a retired engineer, explained that neither he, nor his committee is suing the town of Payson, and why he applied for the commission.

"I've heard both the mayor and the vice mayor, among others, invite members of the public if they were unhappy with the way things were going to participate," he said. "I have a lot of qualifications for this."

On Monday, Horton said he knew the council would approve Baas' appointment.

"Hopefully once he gets on there, he'll understand the process better and understand what constraints they have," he said.

The other item that dominated the agenda Thursday evening was the second reading and public hearing for a zone change that will allow a 30-unit condominium subdivision to be built at 1900 N. Beeline Highway between The Home Depot and Ponderosa Baptist Church.

Councilor Tim Fruth, who joined Barriger and Reese in voting against the project, pointed out that the site was originally intended for commercial use in the town's General Plan. Reese then noted that the price range of the new condos, between $250,000 and $400,000, according to the developer's representative, would hardly address the town's need for affordable housing.

"I drove the area off and on over two days and I spoke to residents in that area," Reese said. "The people I spoke to are generally uncomfortable with this and I'm going to have to vote against it."

Barriger said he would vote against the project because the proposed water supply -- from Star Valley via the pipeline currently under construction -- is not secure.

"I don't think we should be going ahead and accepting rezoning on the basis of something that may or may not come," he said.

But Vice Mayor Judy Buettner, who joined Brewer, Henley, and Councilor John Wilson in voting in favor of the project, disagreed.

"This is a very good plan," she said. "The point is, there's not going to be any development done at all until this contract to bring new water (from Star Valley is honored)."

Other developments at the Thursday meeting:

  • The council did not have to vote on the rezoning request for Horton's Boulder Creek subdivision behind The Home Depot. Horton, who also wants to use Star Valley water for the project, asked that it be pulled from the agenda prior to the meeting. He indicated he would probably place the item back on the agenda in March, but did not elaborate.
  • An ordinance was passed regulating the manner of sale of products containing pseudoephedrine, "a key ingredient in methamphetamine production." If passed, the ordinance will require retailers to require photo identification and record other information about customers purchasing such products.

"The importation of ephedrine, which is the precursor chemical to methamphetamine, has hugely increased in the last 10 years in this country, and we don't think that all of a sudden there's been a huge increase in allergies or colds," Police Chief Gordy Gartner told the council.

  • Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard canceled his presentation to the council on the state's methamphetamine problem.
  • The council approved an intergovernmental agreement with ADOT for phase 4 of the McLane Road project.

"That's for the next leg of McLane Road -- a total rebuild from Forest to Airport," Town Manager Fred Carpenter said. "We'll be bidding that in late February, early March. We're moving forward on that."

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