In-Town Trails Network Approved

Council tables 3 growth ordinances

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After two hours of public testimony, the Payson Town Council voted a second time Thursday evening to table three proposed ordinances which are part of the council's 17-point smart growth plan.

Mayor Bob Edwards called the plan -- designed to curb water consumption through limits on development -- unprecedented, courageous and a compromise among members of the public, the council and the business community.

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Payson Town Council approved a plan that would develop a network of trails in town for walking and biking.

"Water is the lifeblood of this town," Edwards said. "To go blindly forward is not a plan. Tonight we have a chance to say, ‘We're going to be the council that operates for the good of them all.'"

The trio of code revisions on the evening's agenda would have regulated development within town limits.

"I don't think this is a perfect plan," said Payson resident Joel Mona. "I think this plan for the overall is in the long-term best interest of Payson."

The ordinances, packaged as one motion, were tabled four-to-two with Mike Vogel absent. Councilor John Wilson voted against the changes until he had a better understanding of the intended and unintended economic impact of the council's decisions.

"We should not mess with trying to control economic functions without having a clear vision," he said.

He referred specifically to the adoption of Ordinance 695, the council's long-term plan for water and growth. It would curb residential development to 250 new units a year, excluding work force housing projects.

Barbara Ganz, executive director of the Payson Regional Economic Development Corporation, said a privately funded study, scheduled for completion in the next few weeks, will provide more information on the 250-limit bottom line.

"I think it would be prudent not to vote for something until we know that economic impact and how it's going to affect all of us in the long term," she said.

Two other ordinances on the agenda eliminate a town code that forces developers to find their own water sources and reorganizes the voting composition of the council.

Edwards said the revisions proposed in Ordinance 694 offer the council more scrutiny over rezoning applications.

Current zoning calls for a simple majority -- the impending changes would require a two-thirds council vote.

State law already gives residents who object to a nearby rezoning legal reinforcement.

If more than 20 percent of the neighbors within 150 feet of the lots protest, a rezoning ordinance takes a three-fourths council vote.

Payson resident Joanie King encouraged the council to pass these proposals.

"This is really a pilot," she said. "We're not going to ruin the economy or solve this growth problem in a year."

And although all political decisions encounter scrutiny and support, audience members said they were especially concerned about the lack of space at town hall.

"It is appalling and unconscionable that there are people in the parking lot," real estate agent Beth Myers said. "This is miserable and I'm embarrassed by it."

Town Manager Fred Carpenter apologized to the crowd and took responsibility for the inconveniences.

A universally accepted initiative also came before the council.

Councilor Andy Romance asked the town to resurrect and revise a 1999 master plan to implement a community trails network. The plan passed unanimously.

Payson physician Alan Michels said he's in favor of the trails system because of the health, aesthetic, safety and recreational benefits that such a plan could bring.

"We need a trails network in our town," he said. "We need to promote health and wellness in our town."

The proposal is on a fast track to implementation.

A plan must be ready for council consideration within 90 days. If not, the town is required to give a status report to the public and to the council after 60 days.

The trail system will include a "wagon wheel" design, which includes a main path created from the firebreak with a system of ancillary pedestrian and biking trail and new trailheads, connecting to parts of Payson's road system.

Edwards said he's in the process of putting a task force together to coordinate efforts among town personnel, outdoor groups and the public.

The Payson Town Council is scheduled to meet again Nov. 16.

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