By Pete Aleshire for Payson Roundup
The Rim Country Educational Alliance Dec. 3 approved a master plan for the development of a 6,000-student university and support facilities on a 253-acre parcel it bought from the U.S. Forest Service for the purpose.
The Alliance will submit the plan to the Town of Payson to meet the requirements of the town’s general plan, changed last year to designate the property for educational uses.
The Payson Town Council will consider the proposed master plan next week.
The Alliance will also meet again next week to consider a crowded agenda now that the Alliance and the Rim Country Educational Foundation own the land. That meeting takes place at 1:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 10 in the Payson Police Department conference room.
Arizona State University officials have said repeatedly that while operating a campus in Payson would be consistent with their mission, they have made no commitment to operate the campus.
The project has also generated fresh opposition as a result of a proposal to build a charter school in one corner of the property. The charter school operators would raise the money to build the facilities and pay the Alliance a monthly lease for the campus, which would then help lower the cost of the campus for a university partner.
However, the charter school proposal has spurred opposition for advocates of Payson’s traditional public school system, who maintain the potential loss of students to the charter school could prove devastating to the district’s finances and force the closure of one or more of the district’s four campuses.
The plan for the charter originally included about 24 acres, including about 10 acres for the campus and about 14 acres for athletic fields, which would also be available for use by the community and, ultimately, by the university students. Reportedly, the town’s ban on grass fields until C.C. Cragin pipeline water arrives and opposition from people who don’t want the charter school on the university site may have prompted the charter school operator to drop plans for athletic fields.
The Alliance, in cooperation with the Foundation, has commissioned architect Joseph Tyndall with RSP Architects and project manager Scott Sumners, with Rider Levett Bucknall, to develop a site plan and infrastructure engineering for the campus, which would include dorms, classrooms, roads, parking, a research park, hotels, a retail area and other support facilities.
Alliance officials say that they will seek to strike an agreement with ASU or some other university partner once they complete the engineering on the site plan and infrastructure and have control over the timetable for campus construction.
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