Payson's Design Rules Will Get A Redesign

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Payson's design review needs a little, well, redesign.

So the Payson Town Council has asked for some more meetings, additional changes -- and another look at the result sometime in October.

The new regulations would favor wood, stone, greens, browns, native plants and architecture consistent with Payson's Western heritage. It would also frown on tile roofs, stucco and metal buildings.

The standards would not apply to houses, but would affect apartments. Separate rules for industrial areas are not yet written.

A hearing on the new regulations last Thursday spurred strong debate and complaints from members of the Green Valley Redevelopment District board that the new standards could interfere with its effort to come up with similar regulations for the Main Street business district.

After a discussion that included both impassioned pleas for the new standards and questions about the clutter of government regulations, the council voted to ask the two citizen boards to meet and make additional changes in the proposal in a month or two.

Design board chairman Bernie Lieder argued strongly for the new rules. He said the members of the design review board had made suggestions that markedly improved projects during the planning stage. He also countered complaints the guidelines would turn Payson into a Sedona-style tourist theme park and create more hurdles for businesses and developers.

"We already are a theme park -- the greatest ponderosa pine theme park in the world," Lieder told the council.

Creating an attractive community that serves as the front door to that forest "would be a very business-friendly environment," he said. "The only question is whether we want to be a one-star or a three-star destination -- instead of a hamburger and a right-hand turn" for drivers on the way to someplace else.

"We may be at our own crossroads," in creating a town that will attract visitors and please residents. Referring to suggestions Payson could go the way of Sedona architecturally, he said "the only vortex I see here is a vortex of opportunity" to improve the town's economy by improving its appearance.

Design Review Board member Jeanie Langham agreed, calling reports questioning the effect of the regulations "insulting and inappropriate."

"We want to have a sense of place" in the look of the town and "stucco is really not an indigenous material. It can be used, but should be used in moderation."

She said one hotel project saved $15,000 when it switched from stucco to a building material designed to look like wood. "What do we want to be?" she asked.

"In 20 years, do we want to look better? Then use materials that show we are a forest community."

The council thanked the volunteer members of the Design Review Board for their work, but several council members questioned the detailed standards.

Councilor Mike Vogel said he'd received citizen complaints about details like the rule specifying what percentage of a building's front had to be devoted to windows. He also worried that the added regulations will create more delay and paperwork for businesses.

"You know government is the slowest entity on earth -- and I don't like it when I see entities with absolute power. Truth is -- Sedona is the ugliest town in the world -- it's all one color."

He said some people had called him to complain about the regulations saying "If Payson is so bad -- why'd you move here?"

"Why did I move here?" asked Leider. "Clean air and the forest."

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