City cuts ties with Crossing

Officials have interpreted the 60-percent majority vote against two Kingman Crossing proposals on the November ballot as a message from residents to halt plans on the proposed Interstate 40 interchange project.

City Council conceded the Nov. 6 results on Monday by voting to terminate two contracts with outside consultants on the proposed development, essentially ending the city's role, at least for now, in any further contribution to the project.

One of the contracts will free the city from giving to the consultants 14 percent of any proceeds on a future sale of its land at Kingman Crossing. The other, which covered preliminary studies and designs for the project, will take as much as a quarter of a million dollars from the city's contingency fund to reimburse S&Y Capital Group, a Los Angeles-based consulting firm.

Exactly how much the city will pay remains unknown at the moment; staff is still verifying invoices from the various studies and surveys completed. The Council vote Monday was to take out of the contingency fund "a maximum of $250,000" for the city's portion of the consultants' work.

Crossing not dead

Despite the Council's vote to terminate the contract, and despite Vice Mayor Dave French's comment after the Nov. 6 election that Kingman Crossing "is a dead issue," Vanderbilt Farms is moving forward with its plans to develop the north-side property.

The Tempe-based company is scheduled to go before the city Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday for a rezone on approximately 172 acres from residential to commercial. A preliminary plat will also go before the commission, whose recommendations will pass to the Council for final approval.

Vanderbilt Farms spokesman Stuart Goodman said the company's plans to develop its land and work toward an interchange will continue.

"From our perspective, Kingman Crossing is still the ideal location for a major retail project that can benefit the Kingman community and the region as a whole," Goodman said after the Nov. 6 election, when residents voted down the city's request for authorization to sell or lease its land and a proposal to change the land use designated to the city's land from parks and open space to commercial.

"We're no worse off or better off than when we started," Goodman said in November. "The fundamentals of the project remain strong. Now it's just a matter of how creative we can make the funding mechanisms work so it continues to be a positive project for the community."

Vanderbilt is still expected to approach the city with a sales tax reimbursement proposal; in exchange for fronting the costs of an interchange, the city would give Vanderbilt a portion of taxes collected from a commercial district built by Vanderbilt's partner, Vestar Development Co.

5-year shelf life

And even if the city's role in the continued progress of development in the area is halted, the environmental and retail market studies, the topographic, the boundary and drainage surveys and the preliminary engineering will continue to be applicable for the next five years, according to city staff.

The recommendation to Council was to see through what is now a 90-percent complete initial design-concept report.

"I think it would be foolish to throw this out the window," Councilman Ray Lyons said during a discussion Monday. "By finishing the final 10 percent, we have a project that has a shelf life ... of five years."

The initial design-concept report, a compilation of all the studies and engineering work, has been sent to the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, agencies that will provide feedback to be integrated into a final draft. After one last public hearing, which Owen anticipates will be held in mid to late January, comments will be integrated into a final report that will go back to ADOT and FHWA for signatures, a process that usually takes several months, Owen said.

Once that report is official, it will remain valid for approximately five years, meaning that while the most recent Council action puts a stop to any direct city involvement for now, the report will be available if future officials choose to pick back up the project. If that happens, with all the preliminary work complete, officials could begin actual design of the project.

Design of the project is estimated in the initial design-concept report at $1,476,000. Interchange construction, assumed to commence in 2008, is expected to cost $21,061,000 in 2007 dollars, according to the DCR.

The report and draft "Change of Access Report" were made available for review and comment in October and are now on the city's Web cite,

Miner Reporter Andraya Whitney contributed to this report.