Council Rejects Land Purchase After Questions Raised

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The Payson Town Council Thursday held an executive session, then emerged to cancel a $520,000 deal to buy land near the airport, citing problems revealed by the title search.

The council had agreed on a split vote less than a month ago to approve the purchase on the assumption that the Federal Aviation Administration would eventually repay the town almost all of the money.

The land was part of an exchange of 220 acres previously owned by the U.S. Forest Service. The owners of that 220-acre parcel are currently seeking a general plan amendment to allow the eventual construction of apartments, light industry and both low- and high-density housing.

That request will come before the Payson Planning Commission on Monday at 3 p.m., where it could face heavy opposition. People living along Wagon Trail and Sherwood have already objected to plans to eventually extend those streets to Airport Road, in connection with the land swap.

The separate deal between the town and the new owners of the exchanged federal land now provides a separate controversy.

The town had agreed to buy the land as a place to locate airport-related businesses, in hopes the lease payments would help support the airport operations.

Although the FAA has put a hold on grants for the present, the town expects to eventually get back nearly all of the money it would spend up front.

Councilor Richard Croy objected to that plan, saying the town could not afford to provide the money up front and that the FAA may never resume doling out grants.

The purchase came unraveled when the title search research revealed the owners had in December imposed a number of deed restrictions, without telling the town.

Those deed restrictions apparently could obligate the town to pay a share of the cost of widening and extending Green Valley Parkway and Wagon Trail and pay for things like open space and recreation.

The town council held a long executive session prior to Thursday night’s regular council meeting to discuss the situation.

“We need to sit down and start negotiations fresh,” said Mayor Kenny Evans.

“It’s my hope we’ll still be able to go forward” with the purchase.

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