The beginning stages of a project that could increase tourism to Payson are under way.
The Payson Town Council voted, 3-2, at a special meeting Tuesday to allow developers of a proposed hotel and conference center to design a detailed site plan of the project.
Mayor Bob Edwards and councilor Ed Blair were in dissent. Vice-mayor Tim Fruth and councilor Andy Romance were not present for the meeting.
The overall project will revamp 36 acres of land south of Main Street and west of the Mazatzal Casino, surrounding the current site of the Payson Event Center.
A 10-acre portion of the project will host the hotel, conference center and restaurant in the northwestern corner of the lot.
Bruce Berres of Hospitality Support Group, developers of the hotel portion of the project, said the additions would drastically augment Payson's attractiveness as a tourist and business destination.
Among the features of the proposed 10-acre portion of the project will be a 150-room Hilton Hotel, a restaurant and a 6,000 square foot conference center.
The conference center could be subdivided into four 1,500 square foot ballrooms, if needed.
"This is going to be the leading hotel in all of the Rim Country," Berres said. "A destination."
On weekdays, Sunday through Thursday, it will be a group destination, he added.
The conference center would be among the largest venues available in northern Arizona, Berres said.
"It will hold 600-plus people in a general session meeting," he said. "We will get our fair share of conferences."
The orientation of the hotel and restaurant on the land leaves room for future hotel additions. The two-tiered, American-themed restaurant will have a "spectacular" view of the forest, Berres said.
The hotel and conference center are slated to open in the spring of 2009.
"We've already started some preliminary pre-marketing," he said.
The Town of Payson has plans to renovate the event center and rodeo grounds in the upcoming years, creating a tourist destination package.
Edwards said he was voting against the site plan because he felt the town was putting too much emphasis on the hotel and conference center and not focusing on the event center, "like (the council) should be."
"We ought to go back and look at this whole process," he said. "I don't think we're doing our due diligence."
The next step for the council will likely be discussion of the lease for the 10-acre project, said Town Manager Fred Carpenter. A lease for the project requires site plans, which HSG may now create, he said.