New Mayor Wants To Preserve Star Valley's Rural Heritage

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Chuck Heron is the new mayor of Star Valley. He was chosen by fellow council members Tuesday night at the regular council meeting to lead the town through its next stage of development.

During his two-year term the council will set the foundation of government on which it will build the future.

Until now, the future of Star Valley has been about water, but Heron believes, in order for Star Valley to be a sustainable community, it needs to be about more than that.

"I think people need to get around the water issue and look at one of the benefits of the incorporation," Heron said. "It's first and foremost to preserve the rural lifestyle. People chose to move out (to Star Valley) to enjoy the freedom that comes with rural living."

The council is working very hard to make sure that the zoning ordinances are more user friendly than present county ordinances, Heron said.

"First, we need to look at preserving the heritage," he said. "Then, how do we add (ordinances to it) without degrading that heritage."

After all, Star Valley has been in existence since the late 1800s, he said.

"I think Art Lloyd, chairman of the planning and zoning study group, said, ‘Less government influence is better'," Heron said. He agrees.

Star Valley is contracted with a company that presents the council with a "boiler plate" set of ordinances that can be adapted to suit the individual town's needs. They are then approved without need to reinvent the wheel.

The company used Snowflake, a Western town of similar size, for the blueprint for Star Valley's ordinances.

Once a complete set of ordinances is in place, issues will be dealt with on a case-to-case basis.

A lot of work to do

Heron and the new Star Valley council have a lot of work to do to make the town completely operational. Law enforcement, road maintenance and, of course, water issues will need to be discussed and decided upon during Heron's term.

Star Valley will, in all probability, contract with the county sheriff's office for law enforcement, as do the towns of Fountain Hills and Gila Bend.

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The newly elected Star Valley Town Council was sworn in Tuesday.

County-shared revenue funds will be used for roads. Road improvement and maintenance contracts will be decided through a bidding process, Heron said.

Water still an issue

Star Valley owns nine of the 13 water probes currently in the ground collecting data.

At the next town hall meeting, May 30 -- at which citizens and council members can raise and ask questions -- Heron, as chair of the council's water study group, will create a PowerPoint presentation on the data for constituents.

The probes can tell when one well pump turns on and to what levels other wells near it draw down.

The probes can track the five or six degree changes in water temperature, which are indicative of underground subsystems the water is flowing through.

Heron at the helm

As mayor, Heron feels he is up for the task.

People management and an ability to negotiate are skills Heron said he brings to table.

During his career in management and industry, he has also worked for Siemens Corp. out of Munich, Germany and STS Thompson, an Italian- and French-based company.

He worked on the command system for Mariner IV, the first rocket to Mars, during his career at Motorola.

In the late 1970s, Heron worked for the Arizona Parks Department as chairman of the hiking and equestrian trails committee working on the Highline Trail.

In 1980, he and wife, Marilyn, bought a cabin at Ellison Creek.

Tired of the rough road, they sold their remote cabin and in the early 1990s moved to Star Valley.

Back in 2000, when the town of Payson wanted to put development wells in Mayfield Canyon, he became part of the Citizen's Action Coalition.

The coalition was afraid of what those wells would do to the ecosystem and their impact on existing wells in the Star Valley area.

Eventually, the Forest Service modified the study to include Diamond Rim Exploration above Diamond Point Shadows and Dealer's Choice and the coalition stepped forward to voice their concerns again.

"As far as I know that is part of a National Environmental Policy Act study," he said. Next week, he will meet with Ed Armenta, Payson District Ranger, about the study.

He is anxious, as things fall into place, to look at things such as housing affordability and how its creation would impact the small town's water supply.

He is interested in alternative solutions to water conservation and plans to present those to the town as its mayor. One of his ideas, since a sewer system is not a possibility in Star Valley, is installing commodes, such as the ones he saw on a trip to Sweden.

Their toilets superheat the waste to ash so there is no need for septic or leach lines.

Those toilets cost between $1,000 and $2,000 dollars up front compared to a $10,000 septic system.

It is important to Heron that when people take time to attend council meetings, the council meets in front of them. Work studies and executive sessions need to happen before or after those meetings.

"I'm excited for what we can do for Star Valley," Heron said. "We have a cohesive council because the council collectively has an agenda to do what the people want."

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