University Site Second Thoughts

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So in a monster movie, what happens after the smug guy smirks, “Well, we’re safe now.” It’s totally predictable: The monster lunges out of the black shadows and swallows him whole.

So we kind of hate to even comment on the latest twist in the long-running monster melodrama of the quest to build an Arizona State University campus in Payson.

But we can’t really help ourselves: We gotta follow the script.

So we’re glad the Rim Country Educational Alliance will take one more careful look at four possible sites, while waiting for the U.S. Forest Service to complete the year-long process of getting the 253-acre preferred site appraised.

An analysis by a consulting architect revealed that only about 22 percent of that 253-acre site is buildable without extensive grading. So it makes sense to work out a more detailed estimate of the infrastructure costs and apply them to the buildable ground available.

The four sites still in the running all have advantages and drawbacks.

The Forest Service site may be more expensive to develop in the end — but it provides more elbow room, a more distinctive campus environment, a ready connection to the Gila Community College campus and a more self-contained location. In addition, the land sale would bring 253 acres into the region’s economic base without taking up any of the sizable private parcels that could in their turn provide the space for vital projects as we grow.

The golf course site also has exciting potential — if the current owner proves willing to part with it. It’s in private hands, so the sale would presumably go quickly. It lies at the end of Main Street, so building a university there could provide the economic boost needed to realize the long-frustrated hopes for a coherent, pedestrian-oriented shopping district. The site’s much smaller than the Forest Service parcel, but could actually have more buildable land. On the other hand, even if a compressed executive golf course survived, we would lose a treasured community amenity and swath of open space that adds so much to Green Valley Park. The site would face worrisome drainage problems and would require builders to deal with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — yet another massive and troublesome federal bureaucracy. Backers would also have to go back to the drawing board to figure out where to put a convention hotel and research park, both important to the long-term plan.

The Gila County/Payson land next to Gila Community College is only 23 acres and the adjacent private land is also steep and hard to build on. That site could accommodate the 1,000-student first phase of the campus. That’s appealing, since it would get the bulldozers into action quickly. And it would make it possible to get the university campus open quickly, then turn the facilities over to an expanding Gila Community College when the ASU enrollment group justifies additional phases.

The final site fronting the highway and Tyler Parkway also could accommodate a compact campus, but has more problems with land prices and ownership patterns.

In short, the Alliance board in the next six weeks faces a crucial decision. We’re glad they’re proceeding carefully and gathering all the information they need.

So we’re hopeful. Not overconfident, mind you. Certainly not smirking. So whatever’s waiting in the shadows should just chill.

Comments

Ronald Hamric 4 months, 3 weeks ago

On those points, one issue that has yet to be tapped is the acceptance of nearby homeowners of those respective sites (other than the Forest Service property). Since the city saw fit to oblige the concerns of those folks on North Forest Park Drive regarding the impact of future development on their "quality of life" , I sense the city has set a very definitive precident with that move that in all fairness they would be obliged to consider with ANY ASU development site. The genie is now out of the bottle, lets see if the city leaders can get it back in.

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H. Wm. Rhea III 4 months, 2 weeks ago

If they think the Forest Park extension brought people out, just try putting the only public golf course on the table. Not only would many residents be livid, but a lot of golfers would be outraged. I live out here and let me tell you, there are a LOT of golfers that use this course. It would make the Forest Park extension look tame by comparison if it happens.

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Pat Randall 4 months, 2 weeks ago

What about the people who own property on Tyler Parkway and had the town lower the speed limit and no big trucks driving on "their" road? I don't think they will like a campus near them.

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H. Wm. Rhea III 4 months, 2 weeks ago

That's why I think they should just keep it on HWY 260 where it's planned for. Everyone expects that, and NOBODY wants it built in residential neighborhoods.

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