We could probably think of something more ridiculous for the Payson Town Council to waste time on than a no-gate ordinance, but it would take a while.
On Thursday night, the council directed town staff to develop a no-gate policy for new subdivisions. Once drafted, the policy will come before the council for consideration as part of the town's Uniform Development Code. (See related story on today's front page.)
One argument for this policy, among others, is that gates divide, both literally and psychologically. By not allowing gates, certain members of the council seem to believe we will be building a better community.
We believe that all the time town staff spends writing this no-gate policy and all the time community members spend arguing about it at the council chamber lectern, is time wasted. It is time that could be better spent on real issues.
And if building a sense of community is the aim here, there are more productive ways.
Building community is about creating a sense of place and a sense of belonging.
For example, instead of fixating on gates, new arrivals to town could be sent a welcome packet, either by the town or the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce. The welcome packet would add to any newcomer's knowledge of the area's history. It could include various volunteer opportunities and ways to get involved and would contribute to the small-town feel of Payson that some worry gates detract.
Instead of fixating on gates, that energy could be put into supporting the events that create a feeling of community, such as the World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo, the Trunk or Treat for families held in October or the homecoming parade.
On many levels, we believe this no-gate policy is about class, not community.
If it were about community, then there is more than a little irony in the fact that on the same agenda, the council agreed to a 20-percent funding cut for nonprofits in the upcoming fiscal year. Nonprofits do more to build community than any other segment of our town. Nonprofits are the safety net when we are struggling, financially or otherwise, and nonprofits are the places where we volunteer -- where we gain that sense of belonging that comes from giving of our time and talents. For many, especially the retired, those are the places where we meet each other.
Gates are physical dividers, but community is built on more than appearances.