Stop The Fox Farm Travesty

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Editor:

This is an open letter to the Star Valley mayor and town council:

I am writing to you today regarding the recent meeting that was held when Payson Mayor Kenny Evans and the Payson town attorney talked about annexing Forest Service land and the Fox Farm land for an industrial park.

Does anybody remember why Star Valley became a town? It was to save our water! Some kind of deal was made with Payson and the Tower Well piped Star Valley water, up hill, to Payson! What happened? That water is now watering the golf course at The Rim Club. Mayor Kenny Evans stated in a recent Roundup that Payson does not have a water problem. That is because of the Tower Well!

My husband and I own land at the very end of Moonlight Drive. We are approximately one-half mile from the Fox Farm. We have owned our land since 1978. Before Bert Sprague Sr. (a local historian) died, he told us that records going back to 1895 showed that Houston Creek had never stopped running. And now, as of June 30, 2014, Houston Creek has stopped! During the last five years, since the Tower Well has been operating, the flow in Houston Creek has been gradually getting worse, to the point now that it has stopped! If Payson thinks that the Tower Well will supply the water it needs for an industrial park at the Fox Farm, it is gravely mistaken.

There are very few riparian areas left in Arizona — 90 percent of them are gone. 90 percent of species depend on riparian areas and the wildlife here on Houston Creek depends on it from Star Valley to Gisela. If an industrial park is permitted to be built at the Fox Farm, the Tower Well will completely dry up properties along Houston Creek and Moonlight Drive. All of the huge trees will die, and then people’s wells will go dry. Please do not let this happen!

Why on earth doesn’t Payson want to use the industrial land that is available on Airport Road? It has been designated for this in the past 10-year plan, and the current 10-year plan. Why have a plan if you do not follow it?

When Chaparral Pines came into existence, it was allowed to use water from Mayfield Canyon. It was supposed to be temporary and to be replaced by effluent. That never happened. They have continued pumping and now Mayfield Canyon and its riparian area are dead!

I was deeply saddened when I heard Payson’s town attorney say that it is basically a “done deal” with or without Star Valley’s approval! In my opinion, the only thing that should be built on the Fox Farm land is homes or a park. That land, and the national forest adjacent to it, has some of the most beautiful scenery in the Tonto National Forest.

Trees, running water, wildlife — isn’t that why we live here? Isn’t that why the tourists come here? These riparian areas are our most valuable resources. Are we going to sit by and let these beautiful riparian areas die? Payson has said that it only uses the Tower Well for emergencies. Please know that the Tower Well is pumping large amounts of water daily — their electric bill is over $5,000 a month!

I beg you to somehow stop this travesty!

Claire Ann Waitz

Comments

John Naughton 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Mrs. Waitz, While I understand your concern, this is not a Town of Payson project. The private property owners of the Fox Farm want to sell the land, which is certainly their right, and are in negotiations with a developer. These parties have requested annexation into the Town of Payson to provide services, fire, police, water, etc. I believe your argument should be directed to the property owners not the Town of Payson.

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Ronald Hamric 4 months, 2 weeks ago

John, With all due respect, without support (annexation) from the town of Payson, the "project" is dead in the water (pun intended). I believe that does make Payson and Star Valley primary players in this proposal. I do not see any way the developer can proceed without the approval of either Payson or Star Valley, so it is these two entities that hold the trump card and can very well determine whether what Mrs. Waitz has suggested will actually take place. All the developer is concerned with is, as should be expected, the bottom line. They will only give consideration to the enviornmental impact or the effect on the quality of life if they are forced to as part of the "deal".

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John Naughton 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Ron, I understand all of what you are saying. My only concern is that many people think this is a Payson deal, it is not. It is a matter of private property rights and should private property owners have the right to do with their property as they see fit... I believe they do.

Currently, this property is in the County. I think the requested annexation onto the Payson tax rolls would enhance the consideration of environmental impact or quality of life as building codes, etc would be enforced. Also, should this property be sold for residential purposes, I would suggest that the building and supporting of 80 acre,160 half acre or 320 quarter acre homes would have more impact on the area than what is being proposed.

Ron, (strictly my opinion, now) I have seen many industrial campuses throughout the country that blend into the existing landscape. In fact, many have enhanced the area with a smaller footprint than total buildout.

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steve bingham 4 months, 2 weeks ago

John,

This certainly is a matter of private property rights, however some of the land is indeed located within the Star Valley Town limits. The property owners probably need to have Payson annex the property in order to build the necessary infrastructure - water, sewer, and a paved road. All this will cost somebody a great deal of money - serious money. This would also seem to predict some considerable build-out of this "industrial park" area. Now why would Payson - or Star Valley want to do this? This is a wonderful scenic area more suitable to a different type of development. As a past member of the Star Valley building and zoning committee, I would certainly have spoken out against it - as a terrible idea.

I also think that the Star Valley Town Manager (and lawyer) is mistaken when he says, according to a Roundup article, that this is a done deal and there is nothing we can do about it. Annexation can be a little more complicated than the property owners saying "we want it".

The next question I would have is "Who benefits"? It certainly won't create the number of jobs stated. I think the Roundup could help clear the air with a little deeper investigation.

Sincerely, Steve Bingham

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John Naughton 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Hello, Steve, long time no see.

None of the property is in the town limits of Star Valley. When they incorporated and annexed all the forest service land around Star Valley that 80 acre parcel of private property was not included in the plan. Why they drew the line around it, I have no idea, you'll have to ask the Star Valley founding fathers.

It wasn't the Star Valley Town Manager and attorney who made the statement, it was the Payson Attorney. Yes, you are correct as to why the owners want to be annexed by Payson, availability of services. Yes, I would think it would cost a lot of money but I'll leave that to the developer who certainly knows more about that than you or I. Obviously, they think they can make a buck or two.

Who benefits? I don't know, Steve. Maybe good paying construction jobs, maybe good paying permanent jobs, taxes, support for our schools. You know, all those economic development things people have been yelling about for years.

We hope to be meeting with the developer soon. Will let you know as to the outcome of the investigation.

In the meantime remember, first and foremost, this is a private property issue.

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John Naughton 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Steve, to be clear. Payson wants Star Valley to de-annex the piece of forest service land that Star Valley annexed (they can't do anything with it as it is USFS land) to the West of Fox Farm. This parcel has Granite Dells Road running down the middle of it.

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Ronald Hamric 4 months, 2 weeks ago

John, It is not my purpose to draw you into a debate over the propriety of this proposed development. My only reason for responding to your post to Mrs Waitz was that I think she is addressing her concerns to the right people, those that were elected to represent her and all the folks in this region. If, and this is purely conjecture, all the concerns she stated become a reality after the development goes in, who then do those "injured" have recourse to? If they go after the private property interests or developer, they will simply be told that both the Town of Star Valley and the Town of Payson was behind and supported and help facilitate said development. Take it to those folks!

I am not against devlopment per se. I do think elected representatives need to be very careful regarding any development/growth in light of the water issue that is still prevalent in this desert Southwest region in which we have chosen to make our home. This area simply cannot support the growth and density that those Eastern states can. At some point one reaches criticle mass and the whole thing falls down around our collective heads. Just ask Las Vegas about all that growth and the water source that would support it. Or heck, Prescott and Flagstaff for that matter. I think it folly to look at other regions of the country and say "Heck, lets do what they did". Grow, grow, grow.

As to the right of the property owners to sell or develop their property, I am 100% behind "private property rights". And I also agree that some types of development would be even more detrimental than others. To confront those issues is why people put themselves up for elective office. So they can represent the citizens and make the difficult decisions. But just as they did with the North Forest Park Drive issue, they should listen to those that will be impacted negatively. If it gets too hot in the kitchen.... you know the rest.

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Pat Randall 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Ronald, Haven't you heard evans said we have all the water we need that's why he signed a contract for 49 years with the rich folks so they could water their golf courses. He got Blue Ridge water for us. I don't see it running down any pipes and it is way down low, and ash and fire trash has washed in to it. Never fear he will fix it. (:

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John Naughton 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Ron, no debate here and I don't disagree with many points (not all) made by Mrs. Waitz and yourself.

I just wanted to clarify one point concerning who is actually involved, two private parties trying to do a private transaction. Do they need assistance from the municipalities? Yes. Have the municipalities tried to facilitate the transaction? Yes, that's their job.

The end...

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don evans 4 months, 2 weeks ago

In my opinion, it is not an automatic that a municipality must provide any zoning or financial outlay for infrastructure, to facilitate a private sale transaction between any private parties. As I recall, there was no mention of this proposed annexation to the public until AFTER it was voted on by the Star Valley Council and now Pending with the Town of Payson for acceptance. Then, the Roundup apparently was notified of it and publicized it. Does this sound familiar? We have to pass it to find out what's in it? Why is the identity of the proposed new light industry park owners, a secret until it's a done deal with the Town of Payson for annexation acceptance. Where are the publicized design plans and road lay outs? Our Payson Mayor is pushing for this deal. Give us the projected employment numbers and financial benefits to Payson first. Aleve the water consumption concerns with facts. Just like the proposed college deal, all the players and the promised funding sources are all secret until it is a signed deal. Poppycock, baloney. If I was a "developer" in either of these proposed projects, I would have my company name out in public in neon lights and trying to foster the community's support for it, answering questions, and building a positive image. And isn't the upcoming Payson election asking us to adopt the new ten year Town Plan? The one that has all the future new "industrial" land use zoned and plotted out up around our Airport and other in town property. Just today, along Airport Road I saw the for sale sign for 71 acres for just under $5 million dollars. Three very large parcels of that land are zoned for industrial use. If this Light Industrial Park private sale requires the town to annex the property for it to go through, then there are financial and quality of life impacts to both community's to be discussed beforehand, with public input.

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John Naughton 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Don, your recall is wrong. It has not been voted on by Star Valley. Infrastructure is paid for by the developer, not the town. The Roundup covered the issue at the first public disclosure, the Star Valley town meeting. The first reading of this proposal is tonight at the Payson town meeting. Etc.,etc., etc. Good night!

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Barbara Rasmussen 4 months, 2 weeks ago

I listened to the Payson Town Council meting last night. I have to wonder why our Mayor is riding around with anyone looking for property for private developments? Shouldn't that be left up to Real Estate Professionals? Also perhaps the infrastructure will be paid for by the developer but what about the continued upkeep on a road that will see increased heavy traffic, emergency services and water which by the way the town does not have yet. Will the developer continue to pay for the costs of all these increased services for many years to come? And let us not forget about the Industrial Land available by the airport here in Payson. Why is not suitable? Where the ammunition company is located at now there is room for expansion! Many of the buildings are in place and available now since they sit empty. Why ruin a beautiful area like the Fox Farm?

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don evans 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Look, I fully support the ATAC Company. I have met the owner, and he is an honest hard working business owner. He manufactures good products, and employs almost fifty Payson area people, some are my friends. That being said, I think a public relations mistake was made by him and the Mayor by keeping it all secret until just before the official annexation approval processes begin. As an average Payson resident, I have a hard time keeping up on our political machinations, much less the doings in Star Valley. Frankly, I quit going to our Town meetings as I felt that I gleaned little if any information from the Council and Mayor. To me, it seemed everything had been already decided beforehand, and just a perfunctory vote was to take place. Little or no public discussion on any important community matters, and all at the last minute. Maybe it's my/our fault for being lulled into just going along to get along and letting our elected officials prioritize and do what they want, telling us it's in our best interest and let us worry about the details. I hope this all plays out positively for the ATAC owner, the Towns, the hikers, bike riders, the riparian critters, for the people of Payson and Star Valley.

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Mike Raynor 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Building a business park that has potential explosive danger away from other businesses and residences makes sense to me. I will caveat, at the expense of the builder. The city should not be on the hook for any road construction, water, sewer,and electrical expenses of the new infrastructure.

Letting a business with potential explosive danger build near Main Street or Gas filled Air Planes seems like a poor choice to me. This type of business needs special consideration to lessen the impact to the community.

As much as I do love to walk around the Fox Farm area, they still have the right to develop their property. Face it, few of us would have homes if someone had not let us develop our properties. I do live near enough to walk a round the property often. I also will miss the rustic beauty. We do need the jobs from a quality company. We do need progress.

(I do not know anyone at ATAC.)

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michael wicks 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Mr. Naughton, I agree with you to some point private property owners should be allowed to sell or develop their properties, However the issue here is not that, As the owners of the fox farm could sell it to the developers tomorrow if they wanted, The issue is the developers don,t want to buy it until Property is in Payson so that Payson could supply utilities and support i.e. water elec. sewer, fire,police road maintenence (keeping it clean weed and snow free) and in order for it to be annexed the town will have to spend money even if the developer absorbs the cost of the original construction. here are some facts feel free to call the zoning dept.to check. 1. developer says they need 80 acres, airport industrial has over 200 acres available to develop. 2. although the ATAC does want to expand a lot of the new development will be not hazardous businesses, small part production and optics manufacturers 3. ATAC is already producing ammo up by the airport 4. The property at airport industrial already meets the zoning requirements (M2) there is certain safety issues however all of them can be met there 5.even taking into account the cost of grading, final utility hook ups, cost of buildings and finishing driveways and aprons putting the development at the airport , will cost far far less for the developer and the town no new infrastructure to take care of 6. The airport would be closer to emergency services 7. shipping product easier from airport, closer to hwy, and airport and would not go through residential neighbor hood ( all of the people I know on granite dells are against commercial trucking added to their quiet street.) 8. THE AIRPORT INDUSTRIAL AREA IS WHERE WE DECIDED TO PUT OUR INDUSTRIAL BUSINESSES (for most of the reasons listed above) 9. With all that being said one has to wonder why A company is willing to spend millions of dollars more than is needed on development construction and upkeep , To end up with the same result.

My solution 1. Offer The developer no impact fees, no hook up fees, deferred taxes, and a streamline process through the planning zoning and building dept. ( as long as the developer supplies a performance bond to assure completion of the project ) all this to entice the project at the airport industrial area. and bring THE JOBS they say will appear.

  1. either Payson or Star valley buy the fox farm and develop it into a back country get ,away , or maybe a joint project. OR lets get a conservatory together and purchase the land

Thanks for listening Mike Wicks

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Pat Randall 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Why should the people of Payson buy the land and develop it? There are many things we need first. Where is the 200 acres at the airport? Is it all together or spread all around the airport? Everyone cries for new business and jobs and when something comes along they stand up and scream not in my backyard. Why don't all of you that don't approve, put your money together and do what you want with the Fox Farm, but leave the rest of us out of it. If the Natural Bridge can't make it without help, how do you think the Fox Farm would help anything?

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don evans 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Mr. Wicks, excellent explanation and some new ideas to consider taboot. I think to answer one of your points about why would the proposed developer of the current fox farm be willing to spend so much money? I believe he stated in his published letter that the Mayor helped him to apply and get some type of business grant from ???? at about $400K. I guess you would call it seed money? What still is not clear to me would this 80 acres encompass "other" types of businesses? Or, does he need the entire parcel for his company needs only and to expand his current operation?

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