The Payson Town Council rejected an attempt to block the construction of a new dog pound building just off Main Street, but dropped a bombshell in a crowded meeting by suggesting the Humane Society consider shifting the $3.6-million, 61-kennel facility to five acres of town-owned land next to the rodeo grounds.
About 40 people showed up at the Thursday night council meeting to protest an appeal of a previously approved conditional use permit. The proposed complex would include kennels, dog runs and a fund-raising can-crushing building just off Main Street along side a proposed luxury condominium project.
Halle Jackman, the developer of the condo project expected to build $300,000 condos alongside an artificial stream and series of waterfalls at the end of Main Street, had filed an appeal of the council's approval of the plans to build a new pound. She said the pound would create too much noise and confusion in a prime commercial district.
Humane Society advocates argued passionately against the appeal, insisting the group has jumped through every hoop the town has held up in the course of a three-year struggle to win approval of the facility.
Fred Moldenhauer argued that the proposed facility would enclose all of the kennels and result in much less noise in the neighborhood than the current facility.
"Is it the best use of the property?" asked Moldenhauer. "I don't know. But it is far better than what used to be there."
But Mayor Kenny Evans abruptly changed the dynamics of the discussion midway through the public hearing when he suggested the council delay action on the appeal until the town staff had a chance to talk to the Human Society about the possibility of leasing five acres of town-owned land at the Payson Event Center, which had previously been reserved for lease to a convention hotel. That hotel's financing fell through several months ago, leaving some 11 acres of town-owned land next to the rodeo grounds potentially unused.
"We have a unique window in time," said Evans, in suggesting the council delay acting on the appeal for about two weeks to see if it might work to move the proposed facility.
However, other council members said the council should act on the appeal separately from talking to the Humane Society about moving the proposed pound.
Lisa Boyle appealed to the council to reject the appeal, even if it then negotiates a lease on a new location. "The present building is dying: It has terminal cancer -- it won't last the year. Bacteria and flies are attacking our animals on a daily basis. We've jumped through every hoop. But if we can't break ground in December, there will be no way we can continue."
While supporting the idea of a possible shift in the location of the facility, Councilor Mike Vogel observed that it could take nine months or more for the town to negotiate a lease.
But most of the council members both supported the Human Society's effort and struggled to find a way to explore the possibility of moving the facility away from an area the town has hoped to make the heart of its tourist and commercial district.
"I know how long the Humane Society has worked on this and how many disappointments they've had," said Councilor Michael Hughes, who initially proposed a two-week postponement of a decision on the appeal.
But after some discussion the council instead decided to amend the terms of the commercial use permit to add new conditions that would limit its use as an animal shelter to a nonprofit rescue and animal control operation like the Humane Society.
The council then rejected the appeal and directed Mayor Evans and the town staff to meet immediately with Humane Society representatives to discuss shifting the site of the new facility to the town-owned land next to the Event Center.
The issue should return to the council agenda in about two weeks.