33 Developments Make Cut; All Others Must Wait

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Thirty-three housing projects will be allowed to continue through the planning process. All other developments will have to wait until the completion of a water study sometime in 2007.

Mayor Bob Edwards said the catalog of residential projects approved by the council at its meeting Thursday evening will serve as a dynamic benchmark of growth management.

"I personally feel there is a need to define this list," Edwards said.

As part of its 17-point plan adopted in August, the council directed the community development department to inventory pending projects.

The catalog itemizes more than 2,100 units in all stages of planning; applicants who have submitted a conceptual plan and met with staff are included in the pipeline.

The inventory also creates a foundation for the council's proposed policy that would limit new housing to 250 units per year after the water study is complete.

"This is not a permanent block on development," Edwards said.

The council said it would consider exemptions -- especially projects that focused on affordable housing.

Several local developers, residents and at least one councilor objected to the motion.

Councilor Andy Romance, who voted against the motion, said the constraints could hinder the creative process and remove incentives from developers to design innovative projects.

Former Councilor Robert Henley said the motion blocked the free-market movement of the local economy. The council, he added, could create a liability for itself by basing current decisions on the 250-permit limitation -- the details of which are lacking.

"It is very disheartening that you're making decisions upon future decisions," he said. "I think you'll be in for a hell of a fight."

Owen said the council's plan, if implemented properly, could serve as the underpinnings of responsible, sustainable growth.

This philosophy, he added, could extend to other areas of Payson's regional economy, creating opportunities to improve natural resources -- such as trails -- and attract new residents and businesses to the area.

The motion passed six to one.

Task force request

Councilor Mike Vogel asked Edwards and water task force Chairman Lynn Godfrey to release the names of its committee members. That decision, Edwards said, is left to the discretion of the task force chairs. Vogel said he wouldn't consider any of the findings released by the committee until it provided that personal information.

No-gate policy

Owen, directed by the council, included an item on the agenda to adopt a policy that would restrict the installation of gates in new subdivisions.

Several members of the audience clamored for time at the lectern to dispute the motion.

Kevin Sokol, who lives in a gated community, said he values the safety it provides.

"We can't encroach on people's rights," said Payson resident Leon Keddington.

"This is really a solution without a problem," Henley added.

Councilor Ed Blair supported the proposal. Gates would worsen the traffic caused by more housing, Blair said. "There are sometimes rules for the greater good."

Councilor Su Connell said a gate policy should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

"It has a tendency to feel like Big Brother is stepping in," she said.

"If it ain't broke, let's not stick our nose in it," said Vogel, who voted against the motion.

The council passed the agenda item six to one, and directed staff to develop a no-gate policy for future consideration and possible incorporation into the upcoming Uniform Development Code amendments.

Off-track betting

The council approved the Oxbow Saloon's permit request to offer greyhound off-track wagering via Phoenix Greyhound Park.

Maggie McCurry, a Payson resident and greyhound owner, outlined her objections. She said the council shouldn't support an activity that fosters cruelty to animals. Blair, Edwards and Romance agreed and voted against the motion.

Practices have changed over the years, said track representative Curtis Swanberg. He said this past year, his organization offered 970 dogs for adoption, and contributions to community charities. The council required Swanberg to renew his betting permit in the event of corporate or regulatory changes.

Other issues

  • Council approved $11,180 to upgrade some of the lighting at Rumsey Park in response to the complaints of "light pollution" by neighboring residents.
  • Nonprofits will experience a 20 percent funding cut by the council for this upcoming fiscal year, amounting to $75,800. Connell requested and was granted a $4,000 allocation to St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank.
  • A $6,000 piece of software, approved by the council, will allow town staff to upload off-site broadcasts to its Web site with greater ease and efficiency.

-- To reach Felicia Megdal call 474-5251 ext. 116 or e-mail fmegdal@payson.com.

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