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9:28 AM Thu, Dec. 13th

Wal-Mart vote sparks recall drive

Both Kingman's mayor and vice-mayor have concerns about a recall election threatened against two other council members.

Kingman resident Bill Patchen got a recall application package from the city clerk's office on Thursday, responding to Monday council vote in which two members voted to block the development of a Wal-Mart super store off Stockton Hill Road.

"This not a personal attack on the two councilmen (Frank McVey and Ray Lyons) who blocked the rezoning," Bill Patchen said.

"This is the only alternative open to Kingman residents to show Wal-Mart how much we want them to build a super center here."

And while both Mayor Les Byram and Vice-Mayor Phil Moon, both voted in favor of the Wal-Mart development, both officials said the potential recall could set a dangerous precedent.

"It is a bad precedent to set," Mayor Les Byram said.

"Kingman has never had a recall effort and I would not want the city council to be threatened every time a decision is made."

The effort to rezone 11.5 acres for commercial use to allow the super Wal-Mart was defeated at Monday's council meeting although five of the seven votes favored the new zoning.

A super majority of 75 percent or six "yes" votes were required for passage.

Lyons and McVey voted against the rezoning.

The super majority was triggered by a Smith's Food and Drug objection to the zoning change, legal under city and state zoning regulations.

Smith's had the right to file the objection because their east property boundary is adjacent to a portion of the property requested to be zoned for commercial use.

Vice-mayor Phil Moon said he was disappointed with the council vote blocking the Wal-Mart zoning request.

"It is not our job as a council to protect or restrict business activity in Kingman," he said.

Moon expressed concern that the turn down of Wal-Mart would send a signal to other national retailers that Kingman does not want them.

"On the other hand, I am troubled by the recall possibility," Moon said.

"Each council member makes difficult decisions and should not be voting in fear of a recall."

Both McVey and Lyons expressed different reasons for their votes.

"I opposed the project on traffic and safety issues," McVey said.

McVey said the council and city should solve the traffic problems on Stockton Hill Road before allowing more development within a half mile of the Interstate 40 and Stockton Hill Road interchange.

Councilman Dave French said the statements at the Monday council meeting about the safety and traffic issues at Kingman Regional Medical Center by other council members and citizens were unfounded.

French is a member of the hospital board of directors.

"The KRMC board has discussed the traffic as additional entrances to the hospital have been developed," French said.

"Emergency vehicles have options other than Stockton Hill

Road and more are planned."

Lyons cited traffic, safety at the hospital entrance and the loss of good paying union jobs at Smith's and Safeway to a Wal-Mart with a grocery department.

"We would be trading good paying jobs for poor jobs," Lyons said.

"I did talk to union representatives by telephone and told them I was opposed to the project."

Moon said Lyons' reasoning had nothing to do with the rezoning issue at hand.

"Union issues are not a part of zoning decisions and should not have been considered by those voting," Moon said.

Lyons said he was comfortable with his decision and considered the possibility of a recall prior to the Monday vote.

"The people who voted for me support my position," Lyons said.

"I am willing to take the heat and let the voters decide in a recall."

Neither Lyons nor McVey considered the 17,000 signatures gathered in support of the Wal-Mart super center as a valid expression of citizen attitudes.

"I have been there and done that myself (collecting citizen signatures on public issues) and they are not a valid expression of local attitudes," McVey said.

"The people I talk to agree with my decision."

Pete Kanelos, community affairs manager for Wal-Mart said the company would consider all its options including a redesigned application for the same site, other locations and not building a larger store in the Kingman area.

The proposed site is between Stockton Hill Road and the Mohave Wash between Airway Avenue and north of the current Wal-Mart.

The 25-acre site includes all current zoning for commercial business except the 11 acres close to the Mohave Wash sold to Wal-Mart at auction by Mohave County.

According to state law, Patchen and supporters must organize a political action committee and develop the legal basis for the recall before collecting signatures for a recall.

When all the legal requirements required by Arizona election law are met, Patchen's group will have 120 days to collect at least 498 valid signatures of registered voters who live within the city limits.

If the recall effort were successful in collecting the 498 valid signatures, the election would be held in March, City Manager Roger Swenson said.