Zone Change Debate Invokes The Future

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The seemingly unending battle about a plan to turn seven, two-acre lots into 12 roughly one-acre lots raises deep questions about Payson’s future.

Last week for the third time, Barbara and Patrick Underwood sought a zone change, despite the vocal opposition of some of their neighbors.

Those neighbors feared the five extra houses hidden amongst the trees in the middle of a string of one-acre lots will ruin the neighborhood.

The debate exposed the deep ambiguity that remains just beneath the surface of a town still seeking its footing in an unexpectedly unpredictable and insecure world.

We hope the council will approve the request, out of respect for the Underwoods’ property rights and the need for the town to make the best use of the limited store of private land in town.

The Underwoods have deep roots in Rim Country, from the developments already completed to Barbara Underwood’s current service on the school board and her past service on the planning commission.

Yet many of the opponents accused them of damaging the community they have served purely for personal gain.

We certainly understand how deeply people love the peace and quiet of this forested town — and how dearly many paid to buy the two-acre lots that provide that beauty and serenity. But that doesn’t overrule the Underwoods’ right to develop their own property in a manner consistent with the town’s general plan. They have extended the sewer line, trimmed several lots off their original request and come up with a layout that will make those five extra houses all but invisible to the neighbors who have objected.

Mike Foil, an appraiser with no particular stake in the matter, pointed out correctly that the Underwoods’ private property rights ought to take precedence over the seemingly exaggerated fears of their neighbors.

But because state law gives great deference to the opinions of the neighbors, the council needs a 6-1 vote to overrule the appeals filed to stop the proposed zone change.

The last time the matter came before the council, Councilors Ed Blair and Mike Vogel blocked the zone change. This time around, Fred Carpenter has replaced Vogel. We hope that produces a different outcome this time, for the sake of the beloved community.

These past three years have subjected this town to a harsh lesson in economics. We need a balanced, diversified economy, with the population necessary to provide the jobs and tax money it takes to provide needed public services.

We can’t build a future on wishful thinking — we have to make the hard choices.

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