Neighbors Protest Housing For Seniors

First big project in a year would build 20 homes for low-income seniors and give nearly dead construction business a $6-million infusion

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Neighbors appealed to the Payson Town Council recently to block the first major construction project in town in nearly a year — a 20-unit apartment complex for low-income seniors.

The proposed project off Clark Drive near Bonita would double the size of the existing Pineview Manor and would include a $1-million remodel of the original, 27-year-old units.

The council sat silently through the public hearing on a zone change request for two parcels that used to harbor mobile home units, without asking for a staff report or hearing from the waiting representatives for the Foundation for Senior Living.

Three neighbors who live on Goodnow Street behind the proposed apartments all took the microphone to protest the proposed development.

“I’m totally against it,” said Bob Willig. “They want to add more houses which will generate more traffic. But I don’t know if it does any good to complain.”

After the meeting, the project manager pointed out that the plans approved by the Planning Commission provide for a block wall along Goodnow Street, with only a gated, emergency fire exit connecting to the street.

None of the residents on Clark where the normal entrance for the complex connects attended the hearing.

The federal Section 8 housing program funded the original block of 22 apartments. Residents must have an income of less than about $16,500 annually and pay a maximum of about 30 percent of their income in rent. That averages about $250 a month, said Peggy Newman, who owns the apartments. She said she has a long waiting list of people wanting to rent an apartment. The proposed project would include about $30,000 in renovations for each of those units.

The new block of apartments would be financed through a tax credit system that provides tax breaks for investors.

Residents would have incomes no more than 60 percent of the average for the area and rents would probably range from $400 to $650, said project manager Owen Long.

Recent housing surveys suggest Payson suffers from a critical shortage of affordable housing. The average Payson resident cannot afford the average Payson house, according to federal formulas.

However, residents of Goodnow Street said their road is rutted, plagued by potholes and lacking curbs, gutters and sidewalks. The drainage ditch on town-owned right-of-way along the street has been cleaned out only once in the last eight years, they complained.

Payson residents have long complained about street maintenance. During the boom years three to five years ago, the town undertook some major street projects. However, the recession dried up town revenues and cut state gas tax funding, prompting the council to cancel several major projects and eliminate even most routine street maintenance.

Residents of Goodnow appealed to the council to reject the project to avoid putting any more traffic onto the deteriorating street, although no one mentioned until after the meeting that the project would have only emergency access onto Goodnow.

Carol Brown said “our street isn’t much of a street.”

She said even if the project put in curbs and gutters along the portion of the back of the lot fronting on Goodnow, it would leave a street with a short stretch of curbs and a long slump of barely maintained frontage.

“Our ditch — which the town owns — has only been cleaned out once in seven and a half years,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s just a bog.”

Recent developments nearby have only made the situation worse, channeling more runoff down the nearly filled-in drainage ditch, she said.

“When they built the Safeway, it just added much more runoff. Everyone on the street is very concerned,” said Brown.

Doug Wedel complained that he had to put up a fence to keep people in existing apartment units from wandering onto his property.

“The existing old folks home is in my back yard, basically. I’ve had a lot of run-ins with the lady that runs the place, because they keep putting things on the fence to keep my dogs from looking through.”

He complained that residents of the apartment fed his dogs through the fence. “They’re disturbing the peace and we don’t need any more of that. They don’t think about anybody else. They just build it and think they can get away with it.”

The council listened to the complaints without comment, then quickly adjourned the public hearing on the zone change request. The issue will come back to the council for a decision in April.

Long, managing the project for the Foundation, stayed afterwards to answer questions from Councilor Ed Blair, who pondered the site plan Long never got to present.

Long said he hoped to use mostly local contractors for the $6-million project, including the new units and the remodeling.

He said he had the money lined up and would start building immediately after getting permission, although the approval of the zone change and then the detailed building plans could take most of the rest of the year, given all the necessary hoops.

Long said the project should actually solve many of the existing drainage problems.

Currently, he said a lot of water drains off the Safeway parking lot and other nearby developments and runs through the property.

The town’s ordinance requires new developments to not only keep all of their own drainage on the property, but to retain much of the runoff that enters the property from adjacent properties.

The plan calls for two retention basins that could hold 125 percent of the projected drainage for the property.

“We get massive water drainage off the Safeway property,” said Long. “Other developments funnel water right through” the proposed retention basins.

The project can’t get its required second council hearing on the zone change for more than a month. Then the developer will have to move the detailed site plans through both the planning commission and the council.

“We’re ready to build,” said Long, as soon as the project clears those time-consuming hurdles.

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