The longer Star Valley talked about its general plan, the more things were taken out of it. In the final version of the plan, approved Tuesday night, anything that residents could have complained about was gone. Left was a version of how the small community should grow in the next 10 to 20 years and that doesn’t differ much from what the town looks like today.
“Star Valley will maintain its small-town atmosphere through smart growth and development,” the plan states.
Even though Star Valley is not required to complete a general plan, since its population is less than 2,500, town leaders and residents did not want to see the town grow desultorily. They wanted a plan that kept the rural lifestyle intact.
In earlier versions of the plan, committee members had detailed plans to expand commercial growth along Highway 260 well outside of its current location in the center of town, placing a park/amphitheater in the southern portion of town and setting an area aside near commercial growth for industrial businesses.
All those specific ideas are gone from the final plan.
Committee members also detailed extending Latigo Lane and Union Park Drive to Highway 260, creating an ATV trail around Chaparral Pines and extending Moonlight Drive to a bypass, if one is ever built around Payson.
When residents heard of these plans a year ago, especially those to build an ATV trail that could wreck their solitude, they spoke up and committee members listened, erasing any mention of a specific area for an ATV trail or industrial growth.
At Tuesday’s general plan meeting, Town Attorney/Manager Tim Grier questioned the town’s ability to make continued changes to the plan, which could change when the 2010 Census results are announced.
“It would be more productive for our town” if we could make changes ongoing, Grier said.
Public hearings needed for changes
Peter Armenta, community development director with Central Arizona Association of Governments, said if the town plans to make any changes, say designating a suburban ranch area to residential, it would need to go to a public hearing, where public comments could be taken; the planning and zoning commission would review it and finally the town council would vote on it.
If the town’s population were more than 2,500, any major changes would have to go to a public vote.
“Any changes must be made with the public’s awareness when under 2,500,” Armenta said.
Armenta stressed the document should change as the community grows and be reviewed at least every few years.
“Revisions and amendments will occur as the town continues to grow and develop,” the plan states.
A general plan outlines a community’s growth over the next two decades. Although it is not an ordinance, it “strongly guides” any council, Armenta said.
“This is the only document that ever supersedes any council,” he said. “By law, it is revised every 10 years and at a minimum it should be looked at every five years.”
Star Valley’s plan tackles open space/recreation, growth area, land use, circulation, environmental, economic development, water resources and cost of development.
Just two years after its incorporation, on Jan. 1, 2007, Star Valley entered into a contract with CAAG to prepare a general plan. Completion of the plan was delayed a year as the town waited for results from a water study, a subsequent computer crash also postponed its completion. At Tuesday’s council meeting, council members said they were glad to see a quality plan completed.
Details of the final plan include:
Land use: Based on land and water resources, the town can accommodate 4,000 residents. To retain its small-town atmosphere, future land use should be mostly low-density residential. Commercial growth is needed along Highway 260, but industrial use by the highway is undesirable.
The town needs park and recreation areas along with a water treatment facility to support future growth.
Circulation: Because of its small size, public transportation within town is minimal. However, senior citizens need help getting to services, especially in Payson, so the town will continue a partnership with Arizona Department of Transportation’s van program. Once a van is acquired, it will shuttle residents from Star Valley to the Payson Senior Center.
The town plans to develop “landing areas,” where residents could access Forest Service trails located within and surrounding the town.
The town would also like to build new roads on the south side of town, where flooding is common and sometimes blocks the only thoroughfare into the area. In addition, the town would like to construct a road north of Highway 260 that would connect Star Valley with Payson.
Although no specific location for ATV trails is mentioned, the plan states “an ATV trails system should be developed that would provide safe access for these vehicles and allow for connectivity to the community. Location for these trails will be determined at a later time by public input.”
Open space: Since the town currently has no public spaces for recreation, these should be created. The town plans to designate an area around Monument Peak as a mountain preserve and land around that as an outdoor recreation area. This area will contain a trail system and sports fields.
Surrounding the town will be a defensible space, an area with minimal vegetation. This will provide protection from forest fires.
For municipal facilities, including police and fire buildings, these should be located south of Highway 260 with public lakes for water storage and ground water recharge located in a drainage area that utilizes gravity flow.
Growth area: Currently, town residents receive water from Brooke Utilities and private wells. “These resources are adequate for the current population and will require conservation measures in drought years,” the plan states. Additional growth of 1,700 residents is possible with the current water resources, but any more residents would require the addition of new resources.
Additional water sources needed
“The town will need to acquire these additional water resources in the next seven to 20 years if the town anticipates further growth,” the plan states.
The town suggests acquiring a water company or forming a water improvement district to establish Star Valley as a municipal water provider.
For sewer, the plan suggests Star Valley either, do nothing and restrict growth, create a sanitary district and build a treatment facility or work with the Northern Gila County Sanitary District.
Economic Development: For economic success, the plan states the town should diversify the local economy while maintaining its small-town feel. This means no big box retailers or heavy industry. Instead, commercial properties should be independently owned and operated.
Water resources: No chapter in Star Valley’s general plan has changed more than water resources. The town waited several months to complete this chapter based upon findings from LFR.
Based upon LFR’s findings and Clear Creek Associates, the town found under average precipitation years, adequate water is available to accommodate growth in Star Valley through 2020.
“However, if drought conditions are added to the withdrawals, the sustainable yield picture becomes grim,” the plan states. “Impacts of over pumping the aquifer are greater during periods of drought. The lack of storage capacity in the bedrock aquifer, to other surface water storage facilities, heavily influences the number of people capable of being sustained in Star Valley during either a short-term or long-term drought.”
The plan suggests establishing water supply infrastructure, a sewage collection and treatment facility and a emergency water storage and delivery system.
In addition, the plan suggests developing a water conservation education program, adopting building codes that limit water consumption and developing contingency plans for short-term and long-term droughts.