After five years of confusion and delay, the Payson Town Council on Thursday quietly approved plans for a $33-million luxury condo project which will also yield a 100-foot waterfall likely to define the town at the same time it cleans and refreshes the stagnating Green Valley Park lakes.
The 158-unit condo project just off struggling Main Street is expected to solve a vexing flood problem, provide a three-acre streamside park and include 47,000 square feet of prime commercial space.
Developer Hallie Jackman said "I'm in shock," after the council approved her plan, some five years after she started what was an epic struggle to win approval of a project in the heart of Payson's redevelopment district.
She credited Mayor Kenny Evans for smoothing the way for approval of the project and providing the "vision" to use the project to clean up park lakes by creating the state's tallest artificial waterfall.
Jackman agreed to seek grants for the $2.5 million reclamation project, which would prevent the buildup of algae in the lakes fed by treated wastewater. The lakes have grown gradually more murky over the past decade, as a result of the concentration of sediments and organics through evaporation.
The project would cool the lakes and interject oxygen by pumping the water to the top of a nearby butte then letting it plunge into a succession of pools, each lined with removable filters to capture the sediments and organics. The total volume of water in the lakes would pass over the waterfall every 21 days.
From the waterfall the water would then flow down into the American Gulch, a mostly dry, but flood-prone drainage area that runs alongside Main Street. The water would flow back into the chain of lakes through a natural looking but landscaped stream, lined with both hard-surfaced and gravel surfaced hiking, biking, running and riding trails. All told, 39 percent of the project will be devoted to open space, estimated Jackman.
Jackman would provide the power to pump the water with solar panels on the roofs of the buildings in her project.
The 158 two, four and six-unit attached condo units would range in size from 1,200 square feet to 2,000 square feet and sell for $340,000 to $600,000 each. The project would include a clubhouse with a covered pool and fitness center, a three-acre linear riparian park and a frontage for 800 feet of commercial space.
She hopes to line up small businesses who would buy custom-built offices in the 47,000 square feet of commercial space. She said she already has tentative agreements with a design studio, an accountant, several beauty shops and a furniture store. She might put living space on a third floor of the commercial building, so a small business owner could live over his shop.
She said sales taxes for the construction alone will yield about $1 million and that the state estimates that 47,000 square feet of commercial development will bring the town $10,000 a month in sales taxes.
In addition, Jackman agreed to landscape the stream feature all the way to the nearby lake, across town-owned land. She also agreed to spend about $250,000 to build a bridge over the gulch at McLane, which now sometimes floods. She said the town had agreed to consider waiving various development fees in consideration of those improvements. The town and the sanitary district combined usually impose fees of $15,000 per unit.
Moreover, because the new commercial space is in a redevelopment district, the town could capture half of the added sales tax to finance other improvements along Main Street.
The project should bring about 300 new residents to the end of Main Street, which the town has struggled for years to develop as a prime tourist shopping area.
Jackman said she will build the residential project in phases, selling out one set of units before building the next. She estimated the first buildings will be up within the year and the project will be finished within five years.
She said the repeated delays and town-requested changes in the design of the project nearly bankrupted her and probably increased the final cost of the units by about 50 percent.
"I was in the throes of losing everything because of the delays," she said.
However, she said that in the end the project will solve a host of problems and provide first class amenities.
"Kenny is a businessman and knows we need sales tax revenue. A town is like anything else, you grow or you die. Can you grow smart? Absolutely," she said.