Council Oks Sign, Project

83-unit Mogollon Ridge subdivision given rezoning

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Two long-running dramas cited by some to illustrate Payson's sometimes problematic relationship with private businesses came to quiet conclusions last night -- one involving a sign, the other a subdivision.

The town council unanimously approved rezoning for the 83-unit Mogollon Ridge subdivision on Houston Mesa Road, after a last few tweaks to make sure developer Mike Horton puts up money to solve $200,000 worth of neighborhood drainage problems.

In addition, the town council finally approved a request by the owner of the Swiss Village commercial center to put up a sign listing the development's businesses -- after close to three years of confusion and delay.

And just to round out an evening's worth of effort to live down a reputation for being hard on businesses and long on paperwork, the council also approved a change in the rules that should make it easier for businesses and developments to fulfill the terms of their conditional use permits.

The Mogollon Ridge subdivision was the most substantial issue to come before the council at its Thursday, March 6 meeting. The development has spent years struggling through the town's planning process, as it shrank from the originally proposed 130 units to the present mix of single family homes and small townhouses.

The developer's original effort to cope with town growth restrictions by participating in a group that sank a well in Star Valley to provide new water for the subdivision helped spur years of conflict between the neighboring towns. The developer also faced opposition from neighbors upset about everything from densities to traffic.

But Horton's agreement to put up $200,000 to solve chronic flooding problems affecting perhaps a dozen homes in the area mollified neighbors and got the project back on track.

On Thursday, after one contractor advised the town to get any promised money from Horton up front, the council added a condition to guarantee the developer paid the $200,000 before getting a building permit and approved the zone change on the 12-acre project off Houston Mesa Road.

The council also managed to bring to a close another long-running issue -- Swiss Village owner Roger Kreimeyer's long quest to win town approval for a sign in front of his property to draw drivers to businesses there.

Kreimeyer first sought permission to put up a sign back in September of 2005, armed with a bid to build the proposed sign for about $4,500.

But Kreimeyer's request for a sign got caught up in a fitful town discussion about a new sign ordinance, design standards and landscaping standards -- especially for businesses fronting the highway.

As the months crawled past and cars hurtled by the Swiss Village turn ins, the town officials set up a citizen design review task force, talked several times about new design standards, talked to consultants about coming up with a master plan -- and postponed action on Kreimeyer's request.

In January at a council meeting to talk about planning priorities, Kreimeyer again made a plaintive public plea for approval of his limboed request for a simple, internally lighted sign listing the businesses in the commercial strip.

The council members all expressed sympathy.

Three months passed.

And on Thursday, Kreimeyer returned once again with a nice drawing of his sign, and a new construction bid for about $12,000, including lighting and landscaping.

Several people rose to ask questions.

Gene Sampson suggested the town make sure that the internal lighting for the sign not be "obnoxious" and adhere to "dark sky" guidelines designed to minimize nighttime light pollution.

Jeanie Langham, a member of the town's own design task force, rose to gently lament the lack of a council-approved design plan for signs, landscaping and the general look of key commercial areas, which the task force and other citizen groups have spent hundreds of hours considering.

Then Kreimeyer rose to make another plea for an approval.

"Since I was here in January, two more of our neighbors have gone out of business. We need a blood transfusion of advertising. We are on a lifeline and we are appealing to the council now," he said.

Once again, the council expressed sympathy.

"We've held these people up for eight months and we need to move forward," said Mayor Bob Edwards.

Councilor Ed Blair said, "because the town has dropped the ball, I don't want to wait for another couple of meetings," for a review by a citizen committee of the sign design or for the town to develop "dark sky" lighting standards.

"I've got real heartburn," said Councilor Su Connell, in reference to the citizen task force member's plea to be included in the discussion. "Over the past few council meetings we've seen three people from these commissions and task forces feeling like they were not included. If we're not going to include them, we ought to disband them."

However, the town attorney noted that Payson's code requires sign owners to get design approval from town staff, not citizen committees.

Councilor Andy Romance moved that the council approve the sign, with the condition that the sign owner will agree to let the town pay for changes in his sign should the council later adopt different design or "dark sky" standards.

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