Payson Debates Sign Standards

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It took consultant Angela Dye several years to come up with a comprehensive set of recommendations on how to transform Payson’s highway strip mall frontage into something classy — all mountainy and cool.

But that’s just the start of the discussion, insisted several council members at last week’s regular council meeting.

The town has been waiting on an expert’s report on how to catch the eye of hurtling tourists and shoppers as they either rush though town on the way elsewhere or sit in traffic, fuming and muttering, in the weekend deadlock.

Currently, most of Payson’s businesses and all of its public image straggles along Highway 260 and Highway 87, the shops usually sit far back from the busy highway — often behind the barrier of a frontage road.

Dye’s report contained a host of recommendations to take advantage of the Arizona Department of Transportation’s willingness to give the town control of a wide swath of state right of way to create into an attractive, landscaped invitation to turn off and shop.

In theory, the highway facelift would also help the town underscore its hoped-for identity: A cool mountain town.

Not so fast, said Councilor Ed Blair, who insisted the council yank the routine approval of the report off its consent agenda and talk about it.

Blair said some of Dye’s recommendations limit business signs along the frontage and would hurt businesses — reviving the town’s reputation for not being “business friendly.”

“These are very business unfriendly regulations drafted by Angela Dye,” said Blair.

His objection provoked a lively council discussion — even though in the end it appeared Blair’s assumptions about the item on the agenda were confused.

The motion would have accepted the report and referred it to the planning commission as the first step in a long process.

But other council members underscored that they didn’t feel bound to accept Dye’s recommendations — particularly on the issue of sign regulations, a sore point with many businesses in town. Dye’s recommendations suggested the town not only work to require attractive, consistent signs — but also eliminate sign clutter, which confuse rather than attract drivers.

“Angela Dye can’t make me do anything,” insisted Vice Mayor Mike Vogel. “It says here it’s a recommendation. Staff and the design review board and the planning commission need to take a look at this and make a recommendation to us. I wouldn’t expect this to come back to us for a year or two.”

Blair persisted, citing various portions of the consultant’s report, suggesting that a single sign shouldn’t list more than about six businesses.

“This sounds like a PR nightmare,” said Blair. “I’d hate to be business seven, eight, nine and 10. That’s very unfriendly.”

Nevertheless, the rest of the council concluded that the recommendations ought to go to the design review board and planning commission as written.

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