Payson Ponders Value Of Redevelopment Plan

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Is Payson spending too much time and effort tying to upgrade Main Street?

Has nearly a decade of effort centered on the Green Valley Redevelopment District done much good? Stay tuned.

The Payson Town Council last week directed the Green Valley Redevelopment Agency (GVRA) to undertake a comprehensive survey of residents and businesses in the redevelopment area and then come up with a status report to point the way forward.

GVRA Director Ken Volz said his board wants to repeat the 1999 study and survey that resulted in the establishment of the district.

“The study would quantify where we have come in the past 10 years,” said Volz.

Vice Mayor Mike Vogel said, “We need to decide, do we kill this redevelopment district or is there work that needs to be done we could carry forward?”

A decade ago, the town formed the district just as changes in the state law cut it off at the knees. Previously, cities could establish a redevelopment district to upgrade a “blighted area.”

Once established, a district could capture all of the increase in property and sales taxes in the district for a limited time and use that money to buy decaying buildings, make public improvements and lure developers. In theory, the other agencies giving up the taxes in the short term would profit from the improvement of the area in the long term.

However, the state banned such tax-increment funding shortly after Payson formed the redevelopment district running roughly from the event center down to Green Valley Park along the American Gulch and Main Street.

The redevelopment district has for the past decade struggled to plan and implement improvements and to lure new businesses.

The town has completed several plans and studies and lured several major new projects, most of which have ultimately fallen through.

Just recently, the town decided to return a $300,000 grant the redevelopment agency had gotten from the state from gas tax money to improve several blocks in the heart of Main Street. The town council decided Payson didn’t have the $17,000 to $80,000 in matching money for the already-awarded grant.

The biggest accomplishment has been the development of the Green Valley Park at the end of Main Street, which has become the focal point for community events — including the Fourth of July, summer concerts in the park and a host of other events.

“We have a vision of the GVRA area, but we have a long ways to go,” said Volz, “to create a pedestrian-friendly space where people could come together.”

The council debated how to get as much useful information out of the proposed survey and status report as possible.

Councilor Su Connell suggested the town develop a survey that asked the right questions to provoke some useful suggestions. “Will (the council) have input into the questions asked?”

Town Manager Debra Galbraith thought so. “You could ask them. It’s a committee that reports to the council.”

Vogel said his message to the people taking the survey would be “we want to talk to you — but you tell us what you want for a change. You tell us what you want.”

Assistant Town Attorney Tim Wright said the town might have to jump through new hoops held up by the legislature before it could extend the life of the redevelopment agency.

He said the legislature had rewritten the law concerning redevelopment agencies to shift back to the original purpose — to tear down and rebuild slums and areas subject to a high crime rate.

Town Attorney Sam Streichman said that the now nearly crime-free Main Street might no longer qualify. Earlier, the town had decided the event center parcel couldn’t qualify, under the state’s definition of “blighted” properties.

“When considering the event center,” he said, “we came to the conclusion that we couldn’t meet the requirements of the statute because of the absence of slum areas.”

The council voted unanimously to ask the redevelopment board to undertake the survey.

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