Don't Turn Payson Into A Theme Park

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Picture Payson and Sedona as songs.

Payson: Willie Nelson -- My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys

Sedona: Petula Clark -- Downtown

Payson: Beatles -- Hard Days Night

Sedona: Kenny G -- Duotones

Which sort of leads us to why we're just a little worried about certain trends down at Payson Town Hall.

Bear with us a minute -- because we're at one of those Yogi Bera moments -- who reportedly said: "I came to a fork in the road, and I took it."

Specifically -- the Payson Council faces a series of decisions about whether to go spinning through a Sedona vortex and try to turn a once scruffy, hard-working forest town into a theme park with pine trees. It's an interesting process -- but sometimes, it feels a little like hiking the Highline trail in a tuxedo.

Consider a couple of news events:

Item one: The council last week belatedly realized that a group of dedicated citizen volunteers has spent the last 13 months coming up with a 40-page set of design standards for the town. The design standards would control colors, building facades, landscaping, roof lines and a host of other visual details -- to give the town a high-toned, consistent look.

Item two: Several council members stage a semi-Libertarian revolt against a new fence ordinance, sending it once again back to staff the attempt to make something like the bright orange fence harder to pull off.

Item three: The council agrees to make it a criminal violation to repeatedly violate town code provisions governing things like signs out front.

For some reason, this makes us feel a little twitchy.

Here's the deal: We love Payson, in all its shaggy dog, unpredictable, good-hearted, mismatched splendor. Truth be told: We'd way rather live in Payson than Sedona, with its weekend parking lot of a main drag, its precious little houses, its crystal peddling New Age shops -- and its stringent design standards that have turned the place into a giant, inexorable homeowner's association.

So we hope the council will tread softly -- especially now that they've decided to pick up the big stick of criminal charges against those dangerous big-sign-weird-color-strange-landscaping iconoclasts that have long found a place of refuge nestled here below the Rim.

Everything costs something -- as it turns out. And maybe it even makes sense to turn Main Street into a charming historic district tourist hangout, with its layers of design requirements. And maybe it would be nice to do with a little less hodge-podge, strip-mall clutter along the highway. But it's way easy to go way too far along that line -- especially in a town we treasure precisely because it has such a high concentration of characters, non-conformists and working folks. We've got more people in town who can skin out an elk or cut a big log cleanly than can decipher a vortex -- and we kind of like it that way.

So, let Sedona go all Copa Cabana (Barry Manilow).

We'll just set the folding beach chair on the back porch, pop a top and play Friends in Low Places (Garth Brooks) -- in our rough-edged paradise below the Rim.

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