Town Council Votes To Let Star Valley Water Flow

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The debate started over a Star Valley well and a proposed Payson housing development back in August 2005.

Developer Michael Horton, by Arizona state law, needed an unencumbered water supply to build 35 single-family homes.

Land owners Roy Haught and George Randall agreed to sell the water from their wells in Star Valley to the town of Payson for the development.

Neighbors concerned about the well-being of their water supplies rallied together.

They created a new incorporation called Star Valley, to protect their resources.

It's a fight that's been called a moral issue and thievery.

Some residents say the controversy created pro- and anti-growth coalitions while dictating the town's recent primary elections.

But after months of appeals, lawsuits, petitions, amendments and referendum, the Payson Town Council voted at its regular March 23 meeting to sign the contracts allowing the water to flow.

The motion also gives all interested parties the opportunity to renegotiate the terms of the agreements.

"The issue boils down to private property lines," said Councilor Robert Henley. "(Randall and Haught) own the land and the water under it and if Star Valley wants to buy it, they can."

Mayoral candidate Bob Edwards asked the council to rescind Resolution 2098, thereby stopping Horton's development and forcing him to look elsewhere for water.

"I don't know what the rush is here," Edwards said. "Our empathy shouldn't be going toward the developer, it should be going to the citizens."

Payson Public Works Director Buzz Walker clarified the technical details of the agreement. The water, he said, isn't pumped out of the ground perpetually, and any water the town doesn't use is routed back to Star Valley via an 8-inch pipe.

"Once the water gets commingled in the tank," he said. "You don't know where it comes from."

Meanwhile, Horton and his company, Terra Capital, still must satisfy several terms of the agreement including a dedicated well site free of encumbrances, the endorsement of the development's covenants, conditions and restrictions and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality's final approval.

Mark Perry, a representative of Terra Capital, said the environmental reports have already been submitted.

The development firm, he added, would entertain further conversations about the issue according to the council's motion.

"We have performed under that agreement to great extent and cost," he said.

"We're willing to have that discussion. We need to move ahead based on that."

The next Payson Town Council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. April 13 at Town Hall.

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