Beecher on growth

Residents fear of Kingman Crossing unwarranted

Kingman City Manager Paul Beecher sits inside his office Wednesday morning with Miner reporter Nick Wilbur to discuss growth in Kingman and the prospects of Kingman Crossing. JC AMBERLYN/Miner

Kingman City Manager Paul Beecher sits inside his office Wednesday morning with Miner reporter Nick Wilbur to discuss growth in Kingman and the prospects of Kingman Crossing. JC AMBERLYN/Miner

The following is transcript of a Q&A interview with Paul Beecher, the city manager appointed by former Mayor Monica Gates in May of 2005.

Beecher has been a city manager in several cities, from Dover, N.H., to Slater, Mo., for the last 32 years. Upon joining the Kingman city government, Beecher saw an opportunity and a challenge. That challenge was growth. He said he's done his best to be proactive in controlling growth and development, and while not everything has been an immediate success, he said he has worked daily to do a good job for the community by putting in place today what will be beneficial for Kingman in the future.

Miner: How has the transition been for you from Mayor Monica Gates to Mayor Les Byram and the new Council?

Beecher: It's actually been easy. As I've said, with the 30-something years I've got in this business, you can imagine how many council people I've had to be with in transition periods and mayors.

So it's not something that I'm totally unaccustomed to. I think part of what I was unaware of here was, you know, a lot of the beneath-the-surface issues that have been going on prior to my coming here that ended up impacting that I didn't know about. But I think besides all that, which I'm used to, the transition has been a good one; it's been very smooth. I believe the mayor and I get along very well. We have the same philosophies.

The Council now is still going through a transitionary period, I mean, six months together is not that long of a period of time.

Although the mayor has a lot more background from his previous times on the Council, his involvement in the community and other areas, he still has that two-year gap that he wasn't in office that he still has to catch up on - as well as the two new ones, although Janet (Watson) has had some school board experience, that is somewhat different than city business. And then Kerry (Deering), of course being brand new, is really trying to catch up.

So that is a process that I've had to go through all the time in this business. In Dover for an example, the entire Council switched every two years.

So, you're spending a lot of time, you know like Kerry last night, isn't Kingman Crossing going fast? Well, if you look back, Kingman Crossing has been discussed for years and it's really only started to kick in two years ago when I was approached by a local Realtor on behalf of two companies that wanted to buy 80 acres apiece there.

And we looked at, the Council looked at it, and elected not to do that and eventually elected to take the course that we're taking to use S&Y Capital to kind of help guide us through the process. And so now, with the land sold by Nugent to Vestar and Vanderbilt, we have a new player across the street who is committed to getting things done, and so it does seem like it's going fast if you've just stepped on the train. But it really has been going along for quite some time.

And so that makes it ... it's frustrating, particularly for new Council members who want to act in the best interest of the community but feel that they don't have the knowledge of everything that's happened before. So that's what we're trying to play catch-up on.

But this has been a typical transition, quite frankly.

You know, I appreciate (Mayor) Les (Byram), and I think his knowledge and his knowledge of the community and the city and how it operates and its financial situation and his willingness and ability to get up and speak for that is a plus. And that's not to say Monica (Gates) didn't do that too, because she did the same thing, but I've enjoyed working with Les, and I think that, you know, we make a good team.

Miner: How do you think a Council meeting should be run as far as residents' comments go?

Beecher: Well, I think, Nick ... you know I appreciate Les' style. I appreciate his style more than the rigid, standardized style that you get by following Robert's Rules (of Order), but you know sometimes I think you have to have more control of the meeting than just letting people continue to repeat themselves. You know if they can make a new point, then that's fine. But if they're just restating things that have been stated before, then I don't think that's appropriate.

Miner: So do you think it's case by case?

Beecher: I do. Typically (Byram) runs a good meeting, and in fact my style is much more laid back and informal than it is formal and procedural in that sense ... because I think that turns people off and leaves them cold. And I think, particularly in a small town like Kingman, that you want more familiarity and you want people to feel comfortable coming up there and not being nervous, and I think Les tries to do that. I think my frustrations only occurred that night because I saw people coming up again and again just rehashing the same thing over and over again.

I'm one of these people that likes to run a meeting with a purpose and not let it run all over the place. But I think his style is good and I appreciate that. It's more in tuned with Kingman right now.

Miner: Back on the subject of growth: How well do you think the city is planning for growth at this time, and what are the staff's biggest obstacles?

Beecher: I think, you know, I'm kind of glad, as we've stated, that we've had this slowdown. I mean, you can't get ready, in just the two years that I've been here, for the type of growth we're going to experience if you don't have all the right policies and procedures in place. And to change those takes time.

And so tonight, you're probably going to go to the P&Z meeting where they're going to talk about the Unified Development Code. Those are the kind of ... we need to kind of streamline the stuff that we do to make it simpler and to make it more proactive than we were before. You know, we didn't have to be proactive before. I guess that's looking back at the 20-years-ago thing, because it really wasn't coming at us very fast. But today we need to get out ahead of it. And those are the kinds of things we're trying to do internally to be ready for that when it comes. You know, the service boundary area, I firmly believe we need to be way out ahead of these things.

I've told the staff, time and time again, "you know, I don't want to wait for somebody to tell us what we've got to do." Like, let's take my example, there is the state Department of Water Resources or the EPA or any regulatory agencies coming back in and telling us we've gotta do this or gotta do that. I think we should be out in the leadership on these things. We should be setting the example and setting the tone and not waiting for somebody to tell us what to do. So I think the little lapse we've had here between growth spurts is probably pretty good because it's allowing for our processes to catch up to where we want to be.

The only fly in the ointment is Proposition 207, because some of the things you're going to be doing will be impacting what people could do prior to what we're trying to get accomplished. But personally its worth some challenges, if that's what happens, to allow us to get these things in place, because without that, and if we have to go back to the old way of doing business, we're going backwards instead of forwards, and we don't want to do that.

Miner: How is the city working to get the community behind the Kingman Crossing project?

Beecher: Well, I think probably there's so much, Nick, there's so much misinformation out there about, through nobody's fault, about what is and what isn't going on. I mean, this is one of those things, as you heard last night, that is going to take a bit of time to come to fruition. The city really couldn't do anything ... it started because, like I told you two years ago, I mean it'd been discussed prior to my coming here, but two years ago we were approached by a local Realtor who, like I said, wanted ... he had two companies that wanted to buy 80 acres apiece on our side, and he had Bill Nugent on the other side.

Well, there's a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes here relative to who does what and who gets what out of things, which is really frustrating to me, but the Council didn't like the proposals that came in, so we took the (path) that we're taking now. However, because the dynamics of the situation kept changing, like who was going to own what and who was going to do what, there was really nothing for us to do except position ourselves.

The City Council's position was that we want to have control over the development on our side of the highway to maximize its benefit to the community of Kingman and to create better traffic routes through the town. And we knew that Rattlesnake Wash wasn't yet on the five-year plan, still isn't on the five-year plan, never has been on the five-year plan. We needed to do something to help start, create growth boundaries, which this first one would do.

Plus we also realized the fact that because we rely on sales tax for our revenue, we needed to begin to create more retail opportunity and retail centers in the community, so that is what our goal was at the time. Subsequent to that, or consequent to that, we have new players who have bought out Nugent and are ready to go. And so that put a whole new twist on the thing. That only happened, as you know, at the beginning of last month. And it was finalized, so with discussions with them I said, "I want you guys to come back before the Council and the public," at last night's meeting, and that would start the ball rolling on how we're going to plan this out. Now, there are several tracks running here at the same time here, Nick, which makes it confusing, is that the city has to amend its General Plan to allow for retail/commercial on the city side of the highway, which is what Gary (Jeppson) and the planning and his department are doing. That's one track, and that's what's got people confused, I think, to a certain extent.

All we're doing there is allowing development of a different sort to occur, which is more appropriate along the highway than leaving it as open space or single-family residential.

Then the other confusing part of this whole mix is the state land. So you've got the state, the city in the middle on this side of the highway, and Vestar on that side. We've all got to plan together. We don't know who's going to end up with this piece, and that's going to be key.

We know who started the planning process, or who started the process on trying to get the state to sell it, that's Richard Campana, but it has to go out for auction. He's not guaranteed he's going to get it, so we don't know who that player is going to be, and that kind of hampers our ability to figure out how we're going to get through that property with any kind of road system. You know, we have to have that person in there to help plan. So that's another track.

Then the other track is we've started the 30-percent design of the highway, and as Les said last night, all the Council has done from day one, back in March of 2005, was keep the process rolling to keep their options rolling and look at the different opportunities that might present themselves to make that project good for the entire community. And that's all they've done.

There has been, you know, Gary has to show certain things when he's doing his plans, but they're not set in concrete. Nothing's set in concrete, they're just...these may be something that happens. But as you go through, a final plan will emerge, you know, and I can't sit here today and tell you what the hell it's going to be. I have no clue. It's a dynamic process that will hopefully end, that will end in something beneficial to the city, to all of its residents, that will help provide a good economic engine for the city and well into the future.

The other part of the thing is, and Les' goal is, and I agree with him, is that we can make money off the sale of our land, if, if that's what we decide to do, and use that money to help pay for our share of Rattlesnake Wash. If that Rattlesnake Wash by the time that gets built will probably be well over a $15 million project, our share being 30 percent or more, well, our share may be more than that, our cost may be higher than that, we don't have any ... we don't have the money for that. So we've only recently, as you've learned just as much as I have, is that we've been allowed to have an increased bonding capacity. But we have so many other needs within the community that need to get done that trying to save that for Rattlesnake Wash would be very narrow-minded in my opinion.

We will figure out how to do Rattlesnake Wash when it's time. I don't really have any concerns about that. That interchange is just as vital to the future of Kingman as Kingman Crossing is, it's just that Kingman Crossing is much more imminent and is one that we have much more control over and can make more money out of than we can out of Rattlesnake Wash.

But if you look at the layout of Kingman and think about our traffic patterns, what we have today or what we could have with those two interchanges, both of them going from Hualapai Mountain Road over to Stockton Hill Road, and hopefully, beyond someday, beyond my lifetime anyway, to circle back around over I-40, I mean those are things we need to look at. And when we have those opportunities like we do today to help shape the future in a positive manner, we need to do that.

So I think the public is going to have innumerable opportunities in the future to get involved in the whole Kingman Crossing thing. They're going to be asked to participate, as you heard last night, on the Vestar/Vanderbilt side and how that's going to be laid out. They'll be involved on the city's side on that piece. And then, ultimately, they'll be involved in the state piece, whoever buys that, because that has to go through rezoning, that has to go through subdivision and plan development.

So the amount of public hearings, the number of public hearings and the amount of time the public will have to be involved in this is probably over a two-year period or more. There will be ample opportunities for public input. Plus, the City Council is committed to have all these meetings in public to discuss the various options that it would take a look at in coming to any kind of deal with Vestar/Vanderbilt on a development agreement, and then ultimately, what they would decide to do with the city's portion. I mean, there's so many options at this point that we don't know until we sit across the table from Vanderbilt which one will turn out to be the best for us.

I was telling the mayor yesterday, we could probably sell our piece tomorrow, or today, for cash and walk away from it. And make enough money to do a lot of different things with it, get the interchange going and all that. But that may be ... then we would give up a little bit of direct control we have by still being a property owner, and that may not be in our best interest. But those are the things we're going to have to evaluate over the next couple of years as we begin a dialogue with Vanderbilt and Vestar or anybody else that wants to come in and purchase our property, and the purchaser who's buying and whoever ends up with the state land, the developer who ends up with that. So the variables are hard to get across to the general public in that sense, but I can assure you, as the mayor has tried to repeatedly assure the public, that there is nothing there yet.

But the opportunities for participation and comment are endless until it's complete, and it's going to be ... I mean, the Vanderbilt part they'll want to get very quickly because they want to get their money back; they gotta start making some money off of it. Our part doesn't have to go that quickly and the state piece may take, for full development on that, may take 20 years. Think about it. The absorption rate for the number of homes are going to be, they're proposed in Kingman right now ... it's going to take a long time for the market to absorb those. So that's good because that gives us the opportunity to design it the way we want to, to make it better than what we may have had in the past.

So it's exciting, and to me, it gives us, because we control it, it gives us a lot of opportunities to get the community involved and do the right thing. And that's really what the Council, the previous Council and this Council, wanted to do, is maximize our piece of the puzzle to the benefit of the community regardless of how it turns out. ...

We've had people lurking in the background that are very interested in our side of the road, as is Vestar/Vanderbilt. Quite frankly, they would like to buy our side. In casual conversations with them, nothing in writing, but you heard them last night, they are willing to upfront all of the costs to put in the interchange. They need that interchange to make their project successful. And so that's not going to put the city out anything at this point.

The only time, if we enter into a development agreement with them, we would naturally agree to pay them back our 50-percent share of the cost of the proceeds of our sale, but that could be way down the road. If you were looking at it, and we were equal partners, then we would pay our share and they would pay their share.

But the other caveat to that, Nick, is you've still got the other guy over here, the state piece, and they need that interchange as well to have a successful project, so they're going to have to pay for part of that. So our 50-percent share will be reduced down by however we negotiate with this person. Ultimately, what will be formed is a benefit district where the property owners that are going to benefit from this interchange will pay for it through purchasing the property.

So, it's a hard thing sometimes to explain, even if you're in the middle of it, because the dynamics of it are always changing and there are so many different things going on, but ultimately, the public will have a lot of input. And I think everybody agrees that's important. That land there that the city owns is part owned by the citizens of Kingman, and the Council is entrusted with making sure that is developed for the best way possible.

Miner: In the long run, do you think the community will support the Crossing?

Beecher: I hope so. I think the majority of the community will. I mean, as the mayor pointed out last night and the comments that I get from people since I've been here, is everybody wants more retail shopping opportunities, you know. It's not that we're all ... even in the two years I've been here, I'm used to driving ... it's not that I haven't gotten used to driving to Phoenix or Vegas for certain things, but it would be nice to have better opportunities to shop here. There's interests by all those bigger box stores to get into the Kingman area. They've discovered the fact that Havasu and Bullhead might have slightly larger populations within their city limits, but sitting on I-40 and 93, Kingman really has a larger regional market area than those two communities do, so that really - with the growth that's projected, if you look at the state growth projects, they're predicting that from Seligman to the border with Nevada at the dam will be the third largest metropolitan area in the state by 2035 - if you look at those numbers, even if it doesn't turn out to be that big, it's still a lot bigger than it is.

And if you're a retailer, those guys know their numbers. I mean, they wouldn't be here if they didn't realize what's here right now and what's going to come. So, if you're a first here, you know, that's going to be a bonus for you, and that's what these guys are looking at.

My feeling also on that is that also that, when Rattlesnake Wash comes on line, that adds value to that because by then the market will be demanding more retail. The growth that you'll see over the time between the time Kingman Crossing is finished and Rattlesnake Wash is built will be able to support both interchanges from a retail standpoint.

Now that doesn't even touch on the fact that we need both of them for traffic circulation. ...

A lot of the people up in my neighborhood that are concerned about this are concerned about more traffic being generated by Kingman Crossing. Well, if you stop and think about it, that isn't going to happen. The traffic that's generated in their neighborhoods and my neighborhood is going to be generated by the new development that's going on there, not what happens at Kingman Crossing.

If neither of those, if neither were built, I'll use Seneca as an example ... traffic on Seneca, just what's platted and approved by the Council, even since you've been here, will increase significantly. And I forget the exact number percentagewise. But if you put the interchanges in, then it doesn't increase significantly because people have another way to get in and out of their respective areas up there.

Like me, I have to drive now, I go down Louise to Eastern and take either the (Airway) Underpass or Hualapai Mountain Road. But once either one of those interchanges are in, then I can just find the street that takes me to there and I won't have to use any of that. But people, where their misconception is, is that traffic in those neighborhoods, including mine, is not going to be impacted by Kingman Crossing per se.

I mean, people that get off the highway to shop there aren't going to drive through neighborhoods after they finish shopping, they're going to get back on the highway and take off. People that live on the other side, on the north side, same thing. They're not going to come driving through Rancho Santa Fe, they're going to go back to where they came from, same set of streets on the other side of the road.