Residents upset about the proposed connection of Sherwood Drive to Airport Road were not assuaged after the first of three public input meetings on the Montezuma Castle Land Exchange Friday.
About 20 people attended the relatively unruffled gathering where representatives from Verde Engineering group presented the revamped plan to develop 222 acres of old Forest Service land. Major changes included connecting Sherwood Drive to Earhart Parkway further west than originally proposed, and a possible roundabout on Sherwood further east to calm traffic.
A cluster of residents continued to worry that connecting Sherwood Drive to Airport Road would create more traffic, making it dangerous for children playing in the street. Critics also expressed distaste for the proximity of the planned industrial and manufacturing spaces.
Two more public meetings are planned before Verde Engineering sends its zoning application to the town of Payson. The other two meetings are scheduled with different sections of neighboring property owners.
The long subdivision process includes multiple levels of approvals from various town and state agencies, and could take as little as three years or as long as indefinitely, said engineer Ralph Bossert.
At least one local business owner said she supported the planned development that includes homes of varying densities, commercial and industrial space, as well as parks. The business lady, Jennifer Smith, said traffic flowed better with the new plan, which connects Sherwood with Earhart Parkway after it crosses Airport Road.
Smith also wondered why a person would drive down circuitous Sherwood when Airport Road is more direct.
“I think the new plan looks great,” said Smith, who owns a medical manufacturing business on the corner of Red Baron Road and Earhart Parkway. She also lived in the area at one time.
“Anybody taking Sherwood as a shortcut has to have their head examined,” said Dick Reintjes. Reintjes’ main concern was the potential noise from the industrial businesses.
Bossert, with Verde Engineering, said he hadn’t yet addressed noise in the preliminary project narrative, but that he was open to suggestions on how to manage it.
Nearby resident Johnie Duggan said increased traffic on Sherwood, along with the danger it posed to children playing in the street, mostly worried her. But, “the first plan was worse.”
Joanne and Larry E. Jones also worried about increased noise and traffic from the proposed nearby manufacturing businesses.
“We don’t want industrial right next to our houses,” said Joanne. The potential of decreased property values also concerned her.
Larry said the new plan, to him, made no difference. “They moved the road a little, but it’s the same thing.” The earlier plan still connected Sherwood with Airport, but not as far west as Earhart.
Bossert said the town of Payson has always planned for Sherwood to eventually connect to Airport, and if people wanted that changed, they should talk to the town. Ultimately, a roundabout is also planned at the intersection of Airport Road and Beeline Highway.
However, Bossert said an eventual connection was necessary for emergency services, and the only other option would be to block off the intersection.
Larry said he’s tried talking to local officials, but “you can’t find anyone in the town that’ll listen to you.”
The large property is planned to feature residential properties of varying densities, along with parks, commercial and manufacturing space.
The proposal calls for nearly 32 acres of open space, half public and half private, including a public Overlook Park.
Roughly 73 acres are designated for commercial, including a possible shopping center, and industrial. Thirteen of those 73 acres are designated for Payson’s airport expansion.
The remainder is a mix of high-, medium- and low-density residential housing.
The most contentious issue for residents has been the connecting of Sherwood Drive to Airport Road.
“I expect to hear more about Sherwood than anything else that’s proposed,” said Bossert. Residents murmured in agreement.