Design Board Would Rather Quit Than Just Hear Appeals

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Members of Payson’s Design Review Board this week informally agreed they’d rather quit and go home than accept a demotion into a mere appeals board, as envisioned in one of two plans the town council will consider in December.

The Design Review Board recently came up with standards for the look and landscaping of all new commercial and apartment projects in town. For the past year, the board has been reviewing new projects for everything from colors to building facades and design.

The town’s planning staff has come up with two different plans for handling design review of new projects, based on feedback from the town council.

In one plan, the planning director would determine whether plans adhered to design review standards and only refer projects to the board if it required a waiver of the rules.

“If they do that,” said board member Deborah Hughes, “I don’t see the point of having a design review board.”

“I agree with that,” interjected board member Bill Ensign.

The other plan would have the planning staff sign off on minor changes, but send all new commercial, apartment and industrial projects and major remodelings to the Design Review Board.

Several council members had suggested a more streamlined approach, to ensure that the design review process didn’t interject long delays and burdensome requirements.

Both of the new plans attempt to keep the process moving, with tight deadlines for review of such design elements as roofs, wood or stone facades, landscaping, the visual impact of the roof line and signs.

In either system, a builder could appeal any decision to the town council.

The regulations suggested by the design board would try to create a consistent “western mountain town” look, by stressing forest colors, native plants, stone and wood — and banning tile roofs and stucco.

The board has so far stressed a collaborative approach that will not generated a single appeal.

“If we ever review a project that goes to appeal, we have failed,” said board chairman Bernie Lieder.

The board at the last week’s meeting also made progress in working out its relationship with the Green Valley Redevelopment Agency board, which has adopted a separate set of design standards for projects along Main Street in the Redevelopment District.

Two members of the redevelopment agency board attended the design review meeting to work on blending the Main Street designs with the townwide regulations.

Both the redevelopment board members who attended agreed that they wanted the design review board to actually apply those standards along Main Street, with appeals of its recommendations going to the town council instead of the redevelopment board.

The whole group then talked about the need to refine the standards along Main Street, including consistent signs and landscaping to create the feel of a coherent district with historic roots.

Lieder proposed a plan to revise the existing Main Street guidelines, including consistent signage, landscaping and things like sidewalk benches to capitalize on the historic district theme. He suggested a system in which the Design Review Board would encourage developers to talk informally to the redevelopment board about plans at the start of the process — a step that would preclude that same development board from serving as an appeals board.

But that sounded good to the redevelopment board members present.

“We’d rather be involved at the front end than to be an appeals board,” said redevelopment agency board member Mark Waldrop.

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