Zoners OK Crossing amendment

Council next to vote on zoning change for city land south of proposed I-40 interchange

KINGMAN - A recommendation to approve an amendment to the city's 168 acres at Kingman Crossing gained a two-thirds majority from the Planning & Zoning Commission Tuesday, and the zoning map change is now on its way to the City Council for a final vote.

But the city's request to change the zoning map from parks and open space to commercial wasn't rubber stamped by the Commission, as several residents expected.

Commissioners questioned Development Services Director Gary Jeppson on several details not covered in his report, such as where the main roads from an interchange would go, what the effects would be on the surrounding residential neighborhoods and even if the city needs this much commercial property.

The project totals 800,000 square feet plus portions of the 200 acres on the north side of the highway.

The amendment is the first step in the process to rezone and possibly sell the city's land for commercial development.

The long-term plan is to begin scoping out a retail mall on the north and south sides of Interstate 40 approximately 1.5 miles east of Andy Devine Avenue.

Along with the 205 acres on the north side of I-40, an interchange would be built off the highway, giving access to the new districts.

Seven people of the 60 in attendance spoke on the issue, three Realtors showing support.

Three Realtors, the president, former president and a member of the local Realtor's association, all supported the city's plan to create a commercial district.

The city is touting the plan as a fix to traffic on Stockton Hill Road.

It is also being promoted as a source of sales tax revenue for the government.

A retail mall would bring approximately 3,000 jobs, the city says, and would alleviate the need for residents to drive out of town to shop. The current land use allowed for the 160 acres the city is trying to amend is limited to parks and open space. While some have suggested that it be used for horse, ATV and walking trails, the city and some Realtors have shown support for the land use change because of the perks of a commercial district there.

Those opposing the amendment touched on several issues, including the traffic impact to surrounding neighborhoods, the use of the land as park space, and the option to move down a mile and a half to Rattlesnake Wash, an interchange that residents voted into the General Plan in 2004.

Kingman Crossing was not in that plan, and several residents and Commissioners expressed interest in putting it out to a vote. Councilwoman Janet Watson, the liaison for P&Z meetings, said the amendment process doesn't allow that. However, if the issue were to be challenged by the people, which some are considering, a successful referendum would put the item on the November ballot.

Applause during various portions of the discussion showed that many in attendance were not in favor of the amendment.

One round of applause was heard when the Commission asked Jeppson why the amendment wasn't included in the original General Plan, which was passed by the electorate in May of 2004. Jeppson said that the interchange wasn't planned at the time. Residents Against Irresponsible Development, a watchdog group that has demanded the city provide information about the effects of this project and others, has repeatedly noted that the Kingman Crossing plan was not part of the original land use map. Voters didn't approve it, but it was added later.

"I realize I'm a great guy, but you don't need to applaud me," Jeppson joked after the hand clapping had died down.

An audience member retorted "get over yourself." That was the last of several outbursts by the crowd Tuesday.

Commissioners' comments

Commissioner Sandi Minkler, one of the two members to vote against recommending that Council approve the request, asked that a broader map of the connector streets be provided to give a better idea of where the interchange and development district traffic would go.

Of the two maps shown throughout the presentation, one gave just the neighborhoods and the other showed the unnamed streets to be impacted. Jeppson told the Commission that the two streets to be used in taking traffic off the new interchange would be North Sage and Cherokee streets. A traffic signal would also be placed at Airfield Avenue.

In a written comment read by Commissioner Jim Cave, Chairwoman Dorian Trahan, who could not attend the meeting, asked if perhaps the amendment might be a little bit premature. She asked if the issue might be given to the voters to decide and inquired about the number of retail stores interested in locating at the Crossing.

Jeppson said several stores had expressed interest.

While Minkler received applause after expressing a preference for the Rattlesnake Wash interchange, four of the six present Commissioners voted to recommend the Council approve the amendment request. Cave's support rested on the interchange providing a way in and out of the city for people on the Eastside.

Residents' comments

Todd Tarson, a resident, Realtor and current chairman of the Kingman/ Golden Valley Association of Realtors Government Affairs Committee, said three main points ought to be considered in making the recommendation to Council. One is that, upon viewing the city's Web site, he discovered that a land use map isn't static - it can be changed.

The second is the effect a land use map has on property values. A map serves only to guide the city, he said.

And third, the point of Kingman's General Plan land use map is to ensure growth is focused and orderly, that it preserves water and air quality, and that it enhances the general welfare of residents.

Noting that these are important to address in making a recommendation, Tarson gave his support for the amendment and asked that the request be approved unanimously by the Commission. He also said he supported the plan because it would provide sales tax for the government.

Next up was Donna Crouse, also a resident, Realtor and member of Tarson's Government Affairs Committee. She said that the question that needs to be asked isn't so much why we need more commercial development, because "we may have enough to ensure our needs." The question is whether we're providing the quality jobs needed to keep Kingman's youth from leaving. Crouse was alluding to the 3,000 retail jobs that the Crossing project could provide.

KGVAR President Rita Zumwalt, a Realtor with Century 21, spoke in favor as well. While she's not a resident, Zumwalt echoed Tarson's and Crouse's comments and stated that the best use for the city's acreage is to have it become commercial.

Resident Bill Delmar challenged Jeppson's use of the Kingman Area Transportation Study when he spoke to the Commission, noting that Kingman Crossing was only that, a crossing, not an interchange. The study designates Fairgrounds Boulevard and Western Avenue as possible interchange locations, as well as suggesting that I-40 be raised over Stockton Hill Road.

Delmar gave an example he experienced as a county planner for a shopping center in Golden Valley. It never came to fruition, despite going through the necessary zoning changes and planning, because there wasn't a need for it at the time.

"It is too early - you're putting the cart before the horse," he told the Commission. "Does the Airway Underpass ring any bells?"

To address traffic on Stockton Hill Road, Delmar proposed alleviating some of it by adding a connector between the Albertson's shopping plaza and Wal-Mart because people currently have to use Stockton Hill to get from one to the other. Delmar also recommended that the issue be put before a community vote.

Penny Cross spoke as a resident of Seneca Street. Traffic on her street is already bad, she said, with big trucks speeding by creating a growing safety concern with small children in the neighborhood. She's concerned about the land value of her home, she said, and had she known this was going to be in the works when she moved here, she never would have chose to retire in Kingman.

"I don't feel confident that you're looking out for my welfare," Cross told the P&Z Commission, a statement that she said spoke to some of the Council as well.

Cross concluded by pointing out that the 17 acres of park space to be kept of the city's 168 acres wouldn't be a traditional park because it's currently a giant hole in the ground that the city uses as a water retention pond.

RAID member Harley Pettit gave the same presentation he offered at the first Commission hearing, basically a list of reasons why the voter-approved Rattlesnake Wash interchange would better suit the community.

He said that if the amendment were to pass and the zoning were to be changed, the city could see the equivalent of 34 Wal-Marts on its side of the freeway. On the north side, property owned by Vanderbilt Farms, LLC, of Tempe, the commercial area would allow for 41 Wal-Marts.

"We do not need 75 Wal-Marts," he said. But Pettit expressed his doubts about pulling in big box stores at all, given neither Target nor Costco, as examples, had even shown interest in Bullhead City or Lake Havasu City, which both have higher populations than Kingman.