We’re happy to see some of the Payson Town Council candidates have taken a deep breath and modified their rhetoric when it comes to the request by the owner of Fox Farm to annex to Payson to build a light industrial park.
When the long-hidden plan broke into the open as Star Valley considered de-annexing 750 acres of Forest Service land surrounding the Fox Farm, several Payson council candidates showed up in Star Valley and seemed to urge Star Valley to reject the proposal.
We understand the alarm some expressed at how quietly the project had advanced up to that point — but it seemed downright weird for Payson council candidates to attack the plan at a Star Valley meeting. Only Payson can provide water and other public services needed to develop the parcel at all, so it makes sense to bring it into the town limits. Several of those Payson council challengers seemed more eager to criticize their opponents than to carefully consider the proposal.
However, since that initial reaction — they’ve toned down the rhetoric and instead sought better information. That’s great: It serves no one to polarize the issue. Development of that private parcel in the heart of the precious Granite Dells remains vital to the future of the region.
The Payson council will take the next step in the annexation of both the private parcel and the surrounding forest land on Thursday. Incumbent council members have also modified their rhetoric to stress how carefully they’ll review the plans. And that’s good news as well.
Remember, this is just the start of a six-month-long series of hearings on development of the strategically placed, 80-acre parcel. The current owners want to sell it to an international developer who wants to build an industrial park, which would likely house the expanded operations of a local ammunition manufacturer and perhaps several other manufacturing firms.
Critics have raised lots of good questions about the design of the facilities, the provision of roads, water and other services and the need to make sure the development does not cut off recreational use of this beautiful area.
The town and the developer will have to deal with all of those issues in the months ahead. But premature, speculative criticism of the proposal risks killing the project in a needless political crossfire. Payson has struggled to survive the impact of the Great Recession on its tourist-dependent economy. We learned to our sorrow the downside of relying on fickle tourists and second-home construction. Candidates cannot claim that they favor jobs and economic development — and then take potshots at the biggest job-producing development since the crash.
We need the kind of good, stable, year-round jobs that developments like the university and this industrial park will provide. That doesn’t mean we don’t ask the hard questions and protect Granite Dells — but it does mean everyone involved must think before they speak.