A series of overlay zones will allow home construction on 150-year-old vacant lots that for years have been deemed too small, while giving city officials more control in shaping the community.

The overlay zones will also allow case-by-case city approval for multifamily homes in areas where they were previously not allowed.Founded in 1850, Payson has a number of lots too small to build on because of zoning ordinances requiring a minimum of 75 feet of frontage. Many of those lots have become overgrown with weeds, said Mayor Gordon Taylor.

"The home I grew up in had a frontage of 40 feet - just room enough to barely get by," he said. But as new ordinances were enacted, those kinds of lots were left vacant because they didn't fit the requirements. With the new overlay zones, they can again become usable building lots for small homes with council approval. Multifamily homes won't be allowed on small, substandard lots, said a city planner.

"It allows flexibility in determining the use for property," said Taylor. The key is diversity, he said. "Every person doesn't require the same thing."

Builders would need to apply for the overlay zones, which would overlap existing zones. In some instances, overlay zones would allow duplexes, four-plexes and in at least one instance, eight-plexes if approved by the council. While density could increase in some areas of town, the new ordinance gives the City Council control over where the higher density structures would be allowed - according to the compatibility to the area, the planner said.

One residential zone that requires 90 feet of frontage and a 9,000-square-foot lot previously didn't allow multifamily structures but would with the overlay zone.

Another aspect of the ordinance is an overlay zone designed to preserve Payson's historical heritage. Aimed primarily at downtown, the zone includes controls requiring historical architecture and preservation. But it could also be used in historical residential areas, said Taylor.

And while the overlay zone concept is to give more city officials control in how Payson develops, it also works to preserve agricultural land from future development, the planner said.

The council also added a new zone that allows large multifamily structures - like apartments or retirement complexes - on a minimum of five acres. But officials said they didn't know of a five-acre parcel in the town.