The state Appeals Court Thursday overturned a lower court ruling and cleared the way for a November election to determine whether Payson should lease five acres of land in Rumsey Park to the Valley of the Sun YMCA.
The three-judge panel ruled that the paperwork problems on forms filed by the citizen's committee that gathered 1,500 referendum signatures didn't confuse or deceive voters and therefore shouldn't invalidate the otherwise valid signatures, wrote Chief Judge John Pelander in a decision released at 4:40 Thursday afternoon.
The last minute decision clears the way for a mail-in ballot to decide whether the town should give the Valley of the Sun YMCA a long-term lease of the parkland and existing Taylor Pool.
The YMCA offered to raise money to build a $5.6-million pool, gym and fitness center complex and to turn Taylor Pool into a year-round facility. The YMCA would pay $10,000 a year in rent and continue to offer summer public swim hours, saving the town $130,000 annually.
Town Attorney Sam Streichman said "We are going to have an election in November -- the right to vote has been maintained in the town of Payson."
Payson Council members also praised the ruling, although it could mean the voters will overturn a decision strongly supported by the town council.
"I don't know how the election will turn out," said Vice Mayor Su Connell, "but I'm glad the people will have a chance to speak."
Councilor John Wilson said "We all hope the voters approve it overwhelmingly, then get out their checkbooks" to donate money to the YMCA's fundraising drive. He said he hopes the $40,000 special election will demonstrate public support for the project. He said if the public doesn't support the plan "it isn't going to happen."
The Valley of the Sun YMCA, which had been working with Sievers, decided on Friday not to appeal the latest decision to the state supreme court. "We don't agree with the (appeals) court's decision," said YMCA attorney Cameron Carter, "but it's time for this to go for a vote. We confident the residents of Payson will support the YMCA."
He said he hopes the $40,000 special election will demonstrate public support for the project. He said if the public doesn't support the plan "it isn't going to happen."
The Appeals Court decision is the latest twist in a long saga.
The nine-page opinion sorted through various legal precedents and assorted sections of the statute on forming political committees and gathering signatures and concluded the mistakes on the paperwork didn't invalidate the petitions because they didn't confuse voters.
The court quoted the statement from the Friends of Payson's legal brief stating the referendum "was fine in all other respects save one.
There are no allegations that the petitions were circulated improperly, that the form of the petition was flawed or that none other than the requisite amount of registered voters signed the petition. So what did that one error do in a real and practical sense? Nothing."