Simple Turns Complicated In Payson

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Oops. That more or less summarizes Thursday night’s Payson Town Council discussion of a change in the planning process that was supposed to make things simple.

So after some brief head scratching, the council directed town staff to come up with a new ordinance undoing part of an ordinance it adopted in December.

Back in December, the council was wrestling with the proper role of the design review board, a board of citizens charged with developing and implementing design standards to improve the look of new buildings. The council initially fretted that a design review board could set up a needless set of additional hoops for developers, but decided in the end the board provided a valuable way to give the town the look of a “mountain town” with a Western flavor.

The head of the design review board said the group wanted to work with developers throughout the process to suggest improvements rather than issue edicts.

The council liked the sound of that and so wrote into town ordinances a requirement that developers meet with the design review board during the “pre-application” process.

Sounds harmless enough.

Well. Not really, said acting planning director Ray Erlandsen at last night’s council meeting. Turns out, the language adopted by the council actually required an extra meeting with the design review board — which could prove difficult to fit into the schedule without bogging things down.

“It’s created a scheduling issue for an event that normally amounts to handing out paperwork,” said Erlandsen.

The council members said they intended no such scheduling problem.

Councilor John Wilson said he just wanted the developer to meet early on with a single representative of the board or commission in question, to ensure the actual application was complete so things would go smoothly.

“What we have is a little misunderstanding about what the pre-application process was,” said Erlandsen. “The nomenclature got a little twisted.”

Assistant Town Attorney Tim Wright suggested that the council in March go through the two-meeting process of amending the ordinance adopted in December — to remove the reference to the “pre-application” meeting.

Then the planning staff could come up with an administrative policy to require developers to meet with a representative of groups like the design review board and the Green Valley Redevelopment Agency.

The vote was unanimous.

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