Payson To Lease Land To Event Center Developers

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Get it done or don't do it at all.

With those words from Vice Mayor Tim Fruth, he and the six other Payson Town Council members voted Thursday to approve the master plan of the Payson Event Center. Councilor Ed Blair abstained.

"What comes back to us by participating is going to outweigh the cost," Fruth said.

The council -- faced with the option of leasing or selling the land -- decided to lease the 36-acre property upon which the complex will sit to the project's developer, Hospitality Support Group.

Leon Keddington, chair of the Event Center Task Force, said the town would miss revenue opportunities and lose its control over the land if sold. And since the property is zoned for commercial and high-density residential use, a builder could develop the site inappropriately.

"What we don't need is a bunch of high-density housing overlooking the event center that we don't control," Keddington said.

Recent land appraisals valued the 36 acres at $2 million. Even though the town would realize a short-term gain from the sale, millions of dollars in future tax revenue and lease income would disappear.

"Our recommendation is the long-term lease," said consultant Steve Nielsen of Nielsen Fackler Planning and Development. "You end up with everything you wanted."

Economic development -- that's what the town wanted.

Located on the southern end of town, across from the casino on Highway 87, the event complex has withstood a half-dozen years of public scrutiny, council rejection and project refinement.

The current master plan calls for a 97,500-square foot complex, including a covered events area, practice arena, stock pens, spectator seating and vendor facilities. A 150-room hotel, conference center and restaurant are situated on the northern end of the property.

A past council designated 100 ERUs to the project -- the amount of water necessary to serve the property in any peak month with 7,500 gallons of potable water per residential unit.

To fund the $2.9 million construction of the event center, not including the hotel, the town will issue a bond and throw in $500,000. The council is exploring other entities, such as the county and an adjacent development, to chip in. A lease agreement is still months away.

The specifics of financing, infrastructure changes and construction details for the entire $24 million project will show up in future contracts.

Star Valley water

A last-minute agenda change addressed a safe yield study to assess Star Valley's water situation, a promise made when the town incorporated nearly a year ago.

The study, conducted by Scottsdale-based Clear Creek Associates, will determine whether the water pumped out of the aquifer underneath Star Valley and parts of Payson is coming out faster than it's going in.

Mayor Bob Edwards said Chuck Heron, the mayor of Star Valley, and other Star Valley council members, agreed they would accept and abide by the findings of the study, which must be completed by Jan. 31, 2007 and cost no more than $50,000.

Although Payson is paying for the entire study, Councilor Mike Vogel said if Star Valley chooses to use the data to apply for future grants, the new town should pay for a portion of the cost.

Councilor Su Connell made a motion to halt all construction projects using Star Valley water sources until the completion of the safe yield study.

However, fearing lawsuits and other legal action, the council decided to discuss that option during an Aug. 3 work study session.

The motion to begin the safe yield study passed unanimously.

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