Zone Change For Huge Block Of Land Hits Snag

Developers will rework request for 222-acre block along Airport Road that includes some of the last land left for light industry and apartments

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The Payson Planning Commission during a recent meeting put off hearings on a detailed zone change for a crucial 222 acres of forested land near the Airport to let the developer recast a plan for houses, apartments and an industrial park.

The owners of one of the few blocks of raw land for apartments and light industry in Payson had wanted to designate the whole sprawl of land in a Planned Area Development (PAD). Such a designation would provide a lot of flexibility to move densities and developments and open space around on the 222 acres, without sticking to the zoning restrictions that would apply to a single zone.

However, the town’s planning staff on May 10 recommended the Planning Commission ask the developer to recast the zone change request as a normal zone change.

Planning Director Ray Erlandsen said the PAD designation is intended to provide extra flexibility for the developer of a single, large property that includes different types of uses.

The group of investors that accumulated land to swap to the Forest Service for the big blocks of undeveloped land along Airport Road near the Payson Airport hope to get the zone change, then sell off the raw land.

As a result, the planning staff said that the range of uses and densities possible in a Planned Area Development designation would make everything too uncertain when the property owners sold off their parcels.

“It worked out fine — they’ll come back for a traditional zone change in June,” said Erlandsen.

The zone change will have to dovetail with the General Plan Amendment approved by the town council in 2008. That amendment designated 73 acres for industrial uses, 15 acres for multi-family apartments and 105 acres for low and medium density residential.

The general plan amendment provoked some controversy, much of it focused on the impact on local neighborhoods of an extension of Sherwood Drive up the hill to Airport Road. People living along Sherwood Drive complained to the council that trucks and cars trying to get to the new area would ruin their neighborhood and endanger their children.

The new plan still envisions the extension of Sherwood Drive, but would also include a roundabout and other traffic slowing design features to discourage through traffic. The road would also have signs barring commercial traffic.

Erlandsen said people living along Sherwood appeared less upset at the hearing during which the planning commission quickly granted the applicant’s request to postpone action until June.

“But we’ll have to wait until June to see whether that’s true” that homeowners have accepted the need for a road extension, said Erlandsen. He said the road layout plan would not change just as part of the shift to a traditional zone-change request.

The 222-acre parcel represents one of the few places left in town with a land use designation that would allow job-rich, light industrial developments. The parcel also could play a key role in providing apartment buildings and other multi-family developments that could ease the town’s ongoing shortage of affordable housing.

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