Payson Zips Through Meeting Despite Issues

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The Payson Town Council hurtled through its meeting last week, putting the final touches on some big issues — but provoking little public comment.

The agenda included establishment of design standards for industrial zones, a $34,000 increase in the cost of the Blue Ridge pipeline environmental study, new rules for shutting off water to people who don’t pay their bills, new flexibility for developers when it comes time to pay building fees and renewed protests concerning the town’s plan to build a water treatment plant right next to Mesa del Caballo.

Despite the weighty issues on the agenda, the meeting barely lasted 15 minutes — and provoked nary a dissenting vote.

The single whiff of conflict sounded when a resident of the 400-lot Mesa del Caballo rose to object to plans to build a $7 million water treatment plant at the end of the Blue Ridge pipeline. Those objections dominated a two-hour study session earlier in the week. See related story on page 1A.

Payson Mayor Kenny Evans said the Forest Service will likely determine where the town puts the filtration plant and so far has preferred a 10-acre site adjacent to five houses at one edge of the subdivision.

The pipeline will solve the subdivision’s chronic water shortage, but will effectively cut off access to the national forest for those five homeowners.

“We’re doing our very best to be as open as possible with people,” said Evans.

“Doing our best to help Mesa del out of their water mess. But at some point we’re going to say stop. It’s not going to be on the back of the taxpayers of Payson to find an alternative site.”

Mesa del Caballo residents have pushed the town to build the big water storage tanks and 6,000-square-foot building to house the water treatment facility on another five-acre site farther north on Houston Mesa Road. However, the Forest Service has objected to that site on the grounds it would create an “inholding” of private land completely surrounded by Forest Service land.

In other action on Thursday the council:

• Approved a plan to let builders put off paying their building and impact fees. Currently, builders must pay their fees up front. That sometimes involves putting up large sums before they start building and often a year or two before they can actually sell the properties and recover the money.

The new policy would let them put off paying their fees for up to two years, although they’d have to provide a bond to guarantee eventual payment.

• Approved new design standards for buildings in industrial zones. The town’s volunteer Design Review Committee came up with the design guidelines, which the planning commission unanimously approved.

The guidelines will give architects designing buildings in industrial zones more flexibility, especially when it comes to things like facades and building materials.

The design review committee still has to come up with the guidelines for apartment buildings.

• Approved a streamlined system for cutting off water service to people about to get cut off by the Northern Gila County Sanitation District.

The town’s water department set up a system to automatically cut off water service at the same time people lose sewer service from the independent sanitation district, which serves most of the lots in Payson. Town officials said that if water service remains in effect after the sanitation district has shut down connections to the sewer system, it can cause major problems in the system.

The new water cutoff system would send out notices warning homeowners they’ll lose water service, whenever the sanitation notifies the town of an impending service cutoff.

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