The overhaul of Payson’s General Plan has moved with the ponderous grace of a cruise liner through an Alaskan sound. In response to state mandates, the town shelled out $200,000 for a consultant to conduct the once-a-decade overhaul of the land use blueprint that underlies the town’s zoning ordinance.
With only a dollop of public input, the plan moved through several hearings and last week landed on the council agenda.
Mostly, the plan offers thoughtful, but pleasantly vague discussions of land use, with a deep nod toward the public’s concern about creating a sustainable economy. The recession brought those concerns to the forefront, replacing previous worries about things like running out of water and growing too fast. The plan also included some interesting discussions of the need for a healthy retail sector — and the cost of providing public services to low-density residential zoning.
Just when it seemed the council would link arms and dance around the General Plan Maypole, Councilor Ed Blair raised some awkward questions. He highlighted a proposed increase in the density range allowed in low-density residential areas — from about one unit for each 2.5 acres now to a theoretical maximum of five units per acre. He wondered whether people who bought four-acre lots will one day find themselves next door to a subdivision.
The other council members waved off his concerns, saying no matter what the General Plan says, such a shift would require a zone change — and they would never support such a change. With that, they approved the General Plan as drafted by the consultant, which means it will now go to the voters sometime next year.
We’re not so sure we feel reassured by the assurances of the council majority.
But we’re sure of one thing: Ed Blair asks some pretty good questions.