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5:23 AM Mon, Dec. 17th

Wal-Mart surmounts final hurdle<BR>as Smith's drops zoning lawsuit

Burke Friday also revoked Peterkin's bond and ordered her jailed.

Hauser said he was not ready for the sentencing phase of his client's case because he had not had ample opportunity to research the details of Peterkin's probation.

The pre-sentencing report said she had probation violation warrants from Texas.

However, Hauser said Peterkin told him her probation had been transferred to Maricopa County and that she successfully completed the probation.

Peterkin, 47, recently pleaded guilty to stealing $117,000 in county money early in 2003 while working in Bullhead City Superior Court office.

Deputy Mohave County Attorney Jace Zack said about half the money was recovered in uncashed checks from Peterkin's house and vehicle.

Zack said investigators also found airline tickets to New York.

Peterkin must repay $66,000 under the terms of the plea deal.

Peterkin's case has been presided over by Burke, a La Paz County Superior Court judge.

Each of Mohave County's judges recused themselves from the case because of a conflict of interest.

Zack said Peterkin's sentence will range from probation to 12 and a half years in prison, according to the wording of the plea agreement.

Peterkin originally was charged with four theft counts and, had she been convicted, faced up to 38 years and eight months in prison, Zack said.

Burke ordered that Peterkin be held without bond because of the likelihood that she will face jail time once she is sentenced, Hauser and Zack said.

She entered the courtroom on Friday on her own recognizance.

Peterkin had bonded out of Mohave County Jail twice.

The bond was $10,000.

She worked for about a year in the Bullhead City Superior Court office before being fired April 25.

Peterkin was indicted May 1 and a felony warrant was issued.

She fled her Mohave Valley home before officers arrived and turned herself in at the Mohave County Sheriff's office in Kingman the next day.

The money Peterkin handled daily as a county employee came from fees paid for marriage licenses, divorce proceedings, passports and other legal documents.

Fees collected each day ranged from $80 to several thousand dollars.

An investigation showed Peterkin made only one bank deposit of county funds for the months of January, February and March.

Going by the name of Cynthia Casebeer, Peterkin was convicted of aggravated theft and served several months in an Austin, Texas, prison in 1985 for writing stolen checks totaling between $750 and $20,000 in May 1984.Smith's Food and Drug is dropping its lawsuit challenging the city of Kingman's rezoning of the site for a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

"It is the best for the public for all of us to move ahead and not expend more funds on the legal issues," said Marsha Gilford, public relations officer for Smith's.

"We are excited about getting back to serving our valued Kingman customers"

Gilford said the resounding vote favoring the construction of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Kingman indicated what local people want.

"We can compete and continue to provide value and service in Kingman," she said.

Voters approved the rezoning 3,306-1,193.

The issue brought out a record 36.9 percent of voters for a city primary election.

Smith's had challenged the rezoning of 11.5 acres of a 25-acre site south of Airway Avenue and east of Stockton Hill Road.

Smith's contended that the city-initiated rezoning application filed in August violated Section 31.420 of the Kingman Zoning Ordinance, which requires an applicant to wait one year before refilling a zoning request that is substantially the same.

Wal-Mart filed the original rezoning application, which failed to receive a supermajority approval of at least six council votes.

The supermajority requirement was triggered by a protest filed by Smith's.

The rezoning application later filed by the city did not include land adjacent to Smith's.

Jeff Goldberg, local legal council for Smith's, had challenged the rezoning proposal at each public hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council.

The Smith's court filing lists the Phoenix firm of Cohen Kennedy Dowd and Quigley plus the Kingman firm of Bruno, Brooks and Goldberg as representing the grocery chain.

Smith's sought no monetary damages, only the voiding of City Ordinance No.

1396, which permitted the Wal-Mart rezoning.

City Attorney Bob Taylor had advised the council that the ordinance applied to revised zoning applications by individuals or companies and not by the city.

"The city is on solid legal ground," Taylor said.

"The ordinance applies to applicants who were denied zoning, not the city.

The city would not pass an ordinance to restrict their options."

The Smith's filing also challenged the Wal-Mart site as not within the land use designations of the Kingman General Plan.

The current plan designates the area for commercial uses and a regional shopping center.

A new general plan will be voted on May 18 in the Kingman general election and shows the area as a regional shopping center site.

"The site is within the requirements of the general plan," Taylor said.

"It would have been proper to pass a minor amendment to the general plan at the same time, had it been necessary."

Smith's decision to drop the lawsuit and approval by Kingman voters remove all obstacles for Wal-Mart building the Supercenter.

Wal-Mart has not yet submitted plans to the Kingman Building Office to start the permitting process.

"We have been contacted by Wal-Mart architects checking on our building codes as they finalize their building plans," said Jim McErlean, Kingman's commercial plan checker.

Wal-Mart representatives met with City Manager Roger Swenson and staff to work out traffic, drainage and access measures.

Wal-Mart will pay about $1 million for the work.

During the referendum campaign, Wal-Mart indicated the new store could add 200 employees to the local work force.

The store will have more than 200,000 square feet, about twice the size of the current store.