Light industry won. Apartments got clobbered. Parks got dissed.
And homeowners were left wondering.
That’s the rough box score for Monday’s unanimous Payson Planning and Zoning Commission approval of a revised general plan amendment for 220 acres of land near the airport, recently swapped with the Forest Service.
The revised plan boosted the amount of land devoted to employment uses like commercial and light industrial from 56 acres to 78 acres. That still represented a roughly 13-acre decline from the existing general plan designation, although a debate about how to count the 30 acres devoted to roads in the entire parcel complicated the numbers.
On the other hand, the amount of land designated for high density residential uses like apartments dropped from 26 acres in the plan presented last week to 14 acres in the plan approved unanimously by the planning commission.
The existing general plan would allow apartments in a large chunk of existing land designated for “mixed use.”
The revised plan also turned a large six-acre park into a narrow strip of open space that would run east of North Vista Road, providing a buffer between the potential apartments and the single family subdivision to the west.
The new plan also expanded by about one-third a long, narrow strip of open space designed to provide an “overlook” park where people would park and sit and look out over the town.
About 50 people crowded into the council chambers for the meeting, which was much more low key than the contentious meeting held last week.
Most people in the audience live in neighborhoods affected by the proposed extension of Sherwood Drive to Airport Road.
The decision on whether to extend Sherwood and other streets will be settled by a separate review of the transportation element of the general plan and by the eventual plans submitted for specific projects (See story on page 12A).
The current general plan amendment centers on the land uses around the airport, not the road extensions or the actual zoning. The actual use of the land and the details of future projects won’t be determined for years, following zoning and then project hearings.
The discussion on Monday focused mostly on confusion about the numbers comparing the existing plan to last week’s proposal and finally to this week’s revisions. Most of the confusion centered on how to count the 30 acres devoted to roads.
In the end, Town Engineer LaRon Garrett calculated that under the existing general plan, the area included 95.6 acres that could be used for commercial and light industrial. That would decline to about 78.6 acres under the latest proposal. Last week, the number stood at about 57 acres.
Although the last-minute calculations caused some head scratching and confusion, the revisions drew praise from people who had been key critics the week before.
Some residents still complained about the proximity of the proposed high-density apartment uses just beyond the street and the open space buffer zone.
However, commissioner James Scheidt said the eventual developer may not actually build apartments on the land. Moreover, the buffer zone and the town’s three-story height limit would mean “you’re not going to have a big apartment blocking your views to anywhere. We’re not going to stuff two pounds of stuff into a one pound bag — that’s not going to happen.”
The revision represents something of a setback for the town’s other priority — providing affordable housing.
The town suffers from a chronic shortage of apartments and other types of affordable, workforce housing. The airport area represents one of the last major, undeveloped chunks of land in the town limits.
The meeting focused mostly on protecting the light industrial zoning, since the land trade also represents nearly the only area in town for such job-generating uses.
Most of the homeowners watching said they were concerned about the potential impact of an extension of Sherwood Drive on their neighborhoods.
Planning Commission Chairman Hal Baas, focused on that issue — in an attempt to reassure residents that the road extension was not a “done deal.”
Baas asked Jones if he had considered attaching to his application a statement that he didn’t want to extend Sherwood Drive.
“We’re just going to leave it like it is,” said Jones.
Jones said the council would eventually have to decide whether to change the existing plan to delete any road extensions.
So Baas asked the town clerk to make sure the minutes made note of the “substantial citizen concern” about the road extensions, but that “we advised the public we could not act on that input” in considering the general plan amendment.