Interchange change?

Threat of referendum prompts possible move of Kingman Crossing

KINGMAN - The message from citizens who are angered by the Kingman Crossing project was loud, clear and hostile.

Around 100 residents attended what was supposed to be an information meeting on Jan. 10, but they weren't there to hear the project engineer explain the plans; they instead lambasted city officials and planners on what they fear could be the consequences of a new Interstate 40 interchange proposal, mainly, increased traffic in their neighborhoods.

The city is now touting an alternative plan it hopes will sway residents into favoring the crossing.

Following the emotional meeting on Jan. 10, more than 30 people approached and provided contact information to the local government watchdog group RAID, Residents Against Irresponsible Development. Group member Mike Bihuniak said the residents are willing to work to get the Kingman Crossing interchange on the ballot with a petition if the city doesn't seriously address the community's concerns.

"People are enraged. If they think they're going to shove it down their throats, (the city's) got another thing coming," Bihuniak said Wednesday.

RAID, which has promised to keep an eye on all the city's development plans, recently submitted signatures to the city on a referendum concerning a rezoned property approved by the City Council.

The petition, if successful, would allow voters to decide the rezoning and possibly reverse Council's approval of the proposed shopping mall at Airway Avenue and North Castle Rock Road. RAID gathered 686 signatures. This special election, according to the county elections director, would cost taxpayers close to $25,000 if enough signatures are deemed valid by the county elections office in the coming weeks.

The signatures have not yet been verified, so it's still up in the air whether the referendum will put the rezone on the ballot in May. But the threat of a referendum isn't being taken lightly by Kingman officials.

The city will reveal to the community an alternative interchange plan at a Jan. 24 meeting, Planning & Zoning Department Director Gary Jeppson said Wednesday.

The new plan includes moving the proposed interchange on I-40 further west toward Andy Devine Avenue. The last project proposal had it set approximately 1-1/2 miles east of Andy Devine. Residents expressed disapproval of that idea during the Jan. 10 meeting. Many requested a more comprehensive map showing where all the traffic from the interstate would be directed and exactly which streets would be utilized. People feared road expansion would soon follow the interchange due to the surge in traffic, and most expressed dismay at the idea that a road in front of their houses might be widened, causing devaluation of their property.

Most residents who spoke up at the meeting preferred that the city pursue the Rattlesnake Wash interchange, which would be located approximately 3 miles east of Andy Devine, before working on Kingman Crossing because the former won't have an immediate impact on residents as it lacks a surrounding residential neighborhood.

The city is inviting the entire community, not just the residents near the proposed crossing, to the Jan. 24 meeting. "At previous meetings ... we'd just notify the area, and this particular one we're doing a communitywide meeting and inviting the entire community to get feedback from everybody," Jeppson said.

The Jan. 24 meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the county administration building, 700 W. Beale St.