Residents Decry Airport Road Plan

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The “appealing” plan to extend Sherwood Drive and Wagon Trail to serve recently swapped land near the Airport would “destroy” existing neighborhoods, residents insisted Wednesday at a contentious meeting of Payson’s Surface Transportation Advisory Committee (STAC).

“If Sherwood Drive is pushed through (to Airport Road), you’ll drive a stake through the heart of the neighborhood,” said Alan Schwartz.

“Why create a nightmare for residents?” demanded Don Evans, who lives at the “epicenter” of the neighborhood that could be affected by the extension of the now dead-end Sherwood Drive.

Town Public Works Director LeRon Garrett said, “I cannot agree with your assumptions.” He said a 1998 traffic study concluded that people living and working in the large chunk of land around the airport would eventually need ways to get down into town without driving down Airport Road to the highway.

Sherwood Drive was intended to provide that outlet, and it was built to the right width to accommodate that traffic when it was extended to serve the roughly 400 homes in three subdivisions whose residents now have concerns about the additional extension.

The STAC members ultimately voted to draft a letter to the Town Council underscoring the concerns of residents and asking to be involved in studying whether the roads in question should ultimately be extended.

However, it took nearly an hour of wrangling before it became clear to the residents that the horse they hope to hobble actually kicked open the barn door several years ago — when the town council adopted the current general plan, which assumes the eventual extension of those streets and others.

But the debate that didn’t take place at the time has been ignited now by a proposed general plan amendment involving 220 acres of land near the airport previously owned by the U.S. Forest Service.

The owners of that now-private land want to change the general plan to provide more land for light industry, apartments and medium-density residential. The proposed shift assumes that Sherwood, Wagon Trail and Green Valley Parkway will all eventually extend to connect with Airport Road, as envisioned in the current plan.

The new landowners want the general plan designation so they can sell their new parcels. No one has yet proposed an actual development and the roads would probably not be extended until developers provide funding.

The actual zoning for most of the land now stands at one house for every one to four acres, and anyone seeking to actually develop the land will need a zone change. Only the approval of a zone change and a development plan will give landowners a legal right to that zoning. That’s also the point at which the council would make a final decision on whether to extend the roads.

Once the homeowners understood the situation, they repeated their pleas to do whatever it takes to prevent the extension of Sherwood and Wagon Trail.

They argued that Vista Road at one end and McLane at the other should be enough to get people in and out of the new developments. The extended Sherwood Drive would hit right in the middle of the roughly two-mile stretch between those two connections to Airport Road.

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