Payson won’t abandon South Lakeview Drive.
But the town might eventually block it off.
That’s the upshot of last week’s council meeting, when the council rejected pleas from residents to let them take over the street and put up a gate to keep careening kids and forest partyers from tearing up and down a road that dead-ends in the forest.
The dispute involved a 768-foot length of road that goes up a hill past a cluster of homes before ending abruptly in the thick forest. Residents say that kids drive down the hill way too fast and that many people park at the end of the road and disperse into the forest — sometimes lighting dangerous fires.
“That road generates a lot of police calls, a lot of property damage and theft,” said Hallie Jackman, who helped develop the area. “We have issues with cars racing up and down the street — and petitions from all the property owners. We have unattended fires up there, with the forest right behind us — so I’m very concerned about that.”
Resident Ernie Shaw said “Lakeview is a race track Friday night and Saturday night. You’ll have two cars side by side coming down that hill at 50 miles an hour. Kids go up there on their lunch hour from high school and they go very, very rapidly.”
The Payson Planning Commission heard many of the same pleas and voted unanimously to not turn the street private. The town’s planning staff also recommended against abandoning the street, which provides access to private parcels not yet developed.
The street veers west off South Green Valley Parkway just below Main Street, then turns south and heads up a hill. The second half of the road runs past vacant parcels into the forest.
Jackman said none of the homeowners living along the street now knew anything about the 1980 general plan transportation element, which showed South Lakeview Drive ultimately looping around and connecting to Gold Nugget, providing access to several parcels.
Jackman appealed to the council to avoid the problems by closing off the road and urged them not to charge the homeowners for the road, since the developer who sold them the homes paid $250,000 to build the road in the first place.
Town Attorney Tim Wright said that didn’t matter, since once the road became town property the town couldn’t give it away without “just compensation” — even to the people who bought the land, built the road and then gave it to the town.
More importantly, said Wright, the road was “a part of a long-term plan to connect two areas.”
Jackman persisted, saying the statute allows the town to consider public benefits in setting the value of assets it sells and that avoiding the cost of maintaining the road amounted to a public benefit.
Councilor Richard Croy said the property owners with undeveloped land beyond the end of the road had appealed to the council not to make the road private. “As soon as you make it private to your homeowners group, that denies them access to their land.”
“We’re not denying them access,” said Jackman.
At this point, Mayor Kenny Evans pounded his gavel to cut off the back and forth between Jackman and Croy. “This is not a debate,” said Evans, in reference to the rules of public hearings intended to simply gather input before the council debated the question.
Police Chief Don Engler told the council that police had received 34 calls for service within 100 yards of the disputed street in the past year, but only about seven of those calls related to the kinds of complaints Jackman had raised. Of the 10 arrests within 100 yards of the street, none were actually on Lakeview or related to the kinds of complaints Jackman had noted, he said.
Ultimately, the town council sided with the planning commission and refused to consider turning the street over to the homeowners, so they could put up a gate and bar entry to non-residents.
“It’s not only here — but other places — like the end of Phoenix Street and Bent Tree and Split Rock — where we have those kinds of issues: kids finding their oats,” said Evans.
He then suggested the town’s traffic staff look into putting temporary barriers beyond the houses, to keep people from driving on up the hill into the forest. The barriers might reduce the problems, without giving up public ownership of a street that will some day be extended to serve undeveloped parcels.
However, he said that since the council hadn’t included on its agenda a discussion of traffic barriers on the road, he wondered whether the council could actually discuss that idea.
“We’re right at the edge” of violating the open meeting law,” said Wright. The town is currently on what amounts to open meeting law probation because of an illegal meeting by the previous council to talk about reorganizing the town staff.
“The safest thing would be to ask the traffic engineer to report back to you,” said Wright and that’s what the council did.