Council Ponders Subdivision Rezoning

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A now, seemingly routine rezoning request for a once controversial housing development will headline the Thursday Payson Council meeting.

The Mogollon Ridge project, whose water supply once spurred major political furor, last week received routine planning commission approval and this week faces the Payson council with a request to change the zoning from one house every four acres to a mix of designations that will allow 93 homes and townhouses on 12 acres on Houston Mesa Road.

The council on Thursday will also hear a report on grants and agreements to foster the town's ambitious 50-mile trail system, consider a $9,000 grant to bring a replica of the Vietnam War Memorial wall to Payson and consider a bid to buy a $10,000 Internet firewall for town computers.

The Mogollon Ridge project seems likely to dominate the meeting. Developer Michael Horton has spent several years trying to win approval of the project.

When he first proposed it several years ago, town requirements that the developers provide water from new, out-of-town wells spurred a water war that eventually led to the incorporation of neighboring Star Valley

Officials in Star Valley insisted that the Tower Well, drilled in part to supply Mogollon Ridge, effectively stole water from that community's underground water table.

Payson's water experts said the Tower Well drew water from a separate underground formation not directly connected hydrologically to Star Valley's shallow water wells.

After getting caught up in town elections and neighborhood protests, the Mogollon Ridge project went into suspended animation, marked by a bright orange fence around the property neighbors referred to as "the spite fence."

However, Mayor Bob Edwards, who once criticized the development for "taking" Star Valley's water, helped revive it through a series of meetings with neighborhood groups and the developer.

The town's tough new drainage ordinance requires developers to either reduce the amount of storm water runoff that a piece of bare ground generates in the process of grading and developing it or to contribute to downstream flood improvements.

Mayor Edwards' shuttle diplomacy won an agreement from the developer to provide $200,000 in drainage improvements in the existing neighborhood, which seemingly mollified previous homeowner resistance.

The development sailed through the planning commission, which recommended the zone change to the council.

Currently, many areas of town still have a one unit per four acre zoning, although the town's more recent general plan allows for higher densities.

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