After hearing from nearly every resident of Forest Park Drive last week, the Payson Town Council agreed not to connect it to a proposed new subdivision.
True Life Companies is developing a woodsy community north of Forest Park Drive that includes 150 homes, some single-family and others attached. Plans call for keeping most of the ponderosa pines on the 27 acres, adding a community park, walking paths, sidewalks, streetlights and even a roundabout at Rumsey Drive and McLane, near the library.
The Timber Ridge project would also connect Rumsey Drive through to Walmart to the east and on the south end of the project, connect Forest Park Drive to West Longhorn.
The general plan calls for connecting both such streets. But when residents on Forest Park Drive heard of such plans, they expressed strong concerns at a citizens meeting and later at a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.
That commission unanimously agreed the street should remain a dead-end, but with emergency access. New plans were drawn up to create a paved street from Timber Ridge to Forest Park Drive, but with a removal barricade/gate that only police and fire could move during an emergency. The extension would still let walkers and bikers through. Residents backed this plan.
Last week, homeowners stood before the town council, urging councilors to leave Forest Park Drive a dead-end both for their sanity, but also for the safety of students and pedestrians, who frequently use the street.
Forest Park Drive resident Vicki May said she and her husband bought a home on the street three years ago because of the forest atmosphere and peace and quiet. If the street went through, May worries it could become the new shortcut to Timber Ridge, Walmart, the high school and those trying to avoid the highway.
May decided to count the number of vehicles that already travel on Forest Park Drive, which on one day totaled 190 vehicles in nine hours.
“I expect you would agree that this is a lot of traffic coming from our own HOA community and adding traffic from an additional 155 homes would turn Forest Park into another McLane (Road),” she said. “These are your residents of Payson, are you willing to put their safety and security at risk by opening Forest Park Drive to hundreds of additional vehicles each day?”
Resident Robert Hershberger, a retired architect and planner, who helped develop Mill Avenue in Phoenix, agreed with May that the street should not go through.
Resident Jack Thein echoed that extending the street would pose a safety concern for pedestrians, ruin property values and quality of life.
“A majority of Forest Park residents chose to purchase homes in this area for daily peace, retirement, escape of noise and traffic from their urban past or a safe place to raise children,” he said. “Extending Forest Park Drive would mitigate all of the above existing qualified for us.”
After listening patiently to every resident, the council voted not to extend Forest Park Drive, but gave the rest of the project the go-ahead, approving zoning changes.
Afterward, Dale Laycock, president of the Forest Park HOA, thanked the zoning commission and council for not extending the street through.
“It is good to know that our town leadership is willing to work with us to assist in maintaining the quality of life we enjoy in Payson,” he said.