Board Befuddled By Design Muddle

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A befuddled Payson Design Review Board this week asked for a joint meeting with the town council in hopes of figuring out what it’s supposed to do next.

The panel of architects, builders, landscapers and citizens spent more than a year developing a set of design standards for the town, intended to ensure a high-quality, “mountain town” feel. Those standards discourage stucco and tile roofs and encourage stone, wood, colors of brown and green and landscaping featuring native plants that all create a western, mountain town feel.

However, the group’s recommendations triggered a council discussion, ending with directions that have left the design board scratching its collective head. Several council members criticized the amount of detail in the proposed standards. Others, notably Mayor Kenny Evans, suggested that perhaps town planning staff should enforce the standards and projects should only go to the design review board if the planning director thought the submitted design violated design standards.

The design review board had originally assumed it would routinely review new developments and major remodels throughout the town.

“We need a joint meeting,” said board member Bill Ensign. “They’re working on something and we’re working on something and we’re in the dark here.”

“I’m at a loss,” confessed board chairman Bernie Lieder. However, the board has in the meantime worked out some communications problems with another citizen board, this one in charge of redeveloping Main Street.

In fact, the Green Valley Redevelopment Agency (GVRA) has been converted from a potential critic to a key supporter of the idea that the design review board look over all new projects — especially in the redevelopment district.

Representatives of the citizens panel charged with improving Main Street had complained that the design review board hadn’t fully consulted with them about standards in the redevelopment district.

The design review board and the GVRA had met once — but never agreed on a single set of standards for the Main Street area.

Later, Lieder met with members of the redevelopment agency and assured them that his board intends to work closely with the GVRA to merge the various standards. In return, the GVRA passed a resolution urging the town council to make sure that the design review board reviews all projects along Main Street.

“The biggest challenge has been getting everyone on the same page and making sure that what we’re saying is what we mean,” said Ken Volz, Payson’s economic development director and the man in charge of the redevelopment district.

He added, “we believe that every project should go before the design review board, unless it’s just a minor change.”

“If we’re going to have a design review board, they should be an integral part of that process,” said Volz. “Under no circumstances should the community development director make a unilateral decision.”

Several design review board members agreed that the board should review all projects.

“You might as well do away with the design review board altogether” if the council wants to limit it to hearing appeals, said Leider. “Let them appeal straight to the council in that case.”

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