If Payson’s General Plan creates the blueprint for future development, the Corporate Strategic Plan writes the engineering drawings.

Each year, the council updates its strategic plan before adopting the budget. The plan helps staff prioritize projects.

The strategic plan requires the council to think about the town’s development 50 years from now, not just five, said Councilor Steve Smith at last week’s study session.

“If we ... create these future opportunities, people living here 50 years from now are going to be a whole lot more pleased with what we did as leaders in the community than if we sit and just wait to see what happens to the community,” he said.

The council focused on housing at the meeting — from workforce to golf club living.

“I think we can actually have affordable housing, which will attract service (and) maybe tradesmen to the area and take it on down that (Green Valley Parkway) street,” said Mayor Tom Morrissey.

The town’s general plan calls for a build-out population of up to 45,000. Thanks to completion of the C.C. Cragin pipeline and the Northern Gila County Sanitary District expansion, Payson now has the water and sewage capacity to support a tripling of the current population of 15,000.

The limiting factor?

Land.

“Payson is surrounded by property that is Forest Service land,” said Smith. Future growth may therefore depend on additional land swaps.

The shortage of land and houses has already affected sales volume numbers. Last year, the numbers show a gentrification trend. Gentrification happens when housing stock dwindles. As a result, high-end buyers snap up cheap properties, tear down the house and build something more expensive — wiping out the stock of workforce housing. Last year, pre-1976, singlewide mobile homes turned into a hot sales category — even though banks will not finance the mortgages.

Real estate agent Deborah Rose, from Realty One Executives, said some of her clients bought the singlewide homes for $60,000 to rebuild. One tore down the home and sold the empty lot for a profit.

The council also discussed selling unneeded land the town already owns to help provide infrastructure to encourage economic growth. Parking, roads and even empty lots for affordable housing developments can foster balanced development.

The question for the council is, “How do we promote development that is compatible with what we have?” asked acting Town Manager Sheila DeSchaaf.

Water Department Director Tanner Henry said the town has some infrastructure in the works on the land it owns between the event center and Main Street.

Under the 2011 water master plan, the town has plans to build a new water tower. Water pipe has already been laid. The slope provides for gravity fed sewer services.

“If you are looking at low income housing stuff, you got to remember you’ve got to keep your cost of development down,” said Henry.

Other pieces of property, such as a chunk near the southern end of The Rim Club, don’t have services easily accessible, which would increase the cost to put in infrastructure.

For decades, Payson has relied heavily on Forest Service land swaps to provide room for growth. The town had only about 2,000 residents before a series of land swaps in the 1980s provided room for expansion. The most recent land swap provided 220 acres up near the Payson Airport, which remains largely undeveloped.

Chris Higgins and town staff Feb 4 meeting

Chris Higgins and a staff member before the Feb. 4 council work study session on the Corporate Strategic Plan.

Contact the reporter at

Contact the reporter at mnelson@payson.com

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