Crossing project elicits debate

KINGMAN - Two contentious items on the Kingman City Council's agenda Monday - consideration of a sales tax incentive ordinance and a third-party study on the economic and fiscal impact of such an agreement with the developer of the north 200 acres at Kingman Crossing - were pulled from the agenda at the city manager's recommendation.

"I didn't think people understood," City Manager Paul Beecher said.

To avoid what many were expecting to be a controversial debate on the issues, Beecher postponed consideration of the ordinance that would have allowed the city to enter into sales tax incentive agreements.

He pulled the second item, the study specific to Vestar Development Co.'s expected request to enter into a sales tax incentive agreement with the city, in order to wait for the sale of the state land later this month, he said.

The state land borders the city's 168 acres at Kingman Crossing to the south.

The land, according to officials, will have to be sold, and the new owner will need to allow connecting streets through that property from the proposed Interstate 40 interchange to Hualapai Mountain Road.

Because state law requires that land worth more than $500,000 get voters' approval before a city can sell it, the city began the process to ask for that approval in November by putting the potential sale of its land on the ballot.

It was reiterated several times that the city is not asking citizens if the city can sell the land now, or in November, but it's simply asking permission to sell the land at some point in time. There is currently no definitive plan to sell the land. However, to facilitate the Kingman Crossing project, it's been the city's position that selling the land, or at least a large portion of it, would allow the city to pay its part of the Kingman Crossing traffic interchange and possibly its 30-percent portion of the Rattlesnake Wash traffic interchange just down the interstate.

"Just because we have the right to sell all the land," Councilman Kerry Deering said, "doesn't mean we have to."

Mike Bihuniak, founder of the city watchdog group Residents Against Irresponsible Development, asked that Council clarify the language used in the call to election for fear of causing confusion at the ballot. He read from the staff report, "This ballot question should provide citizens an opportunity to decide if this project is desired in the community."

He asked, if voters turned down Council's request to potentially sell the 168 acres, would that mean an end to the entire project? "If they vote it down, it's killing the project, am I wrong?"

Vice Mayor Dave French ripped out the ballot measure wording from his binder and gave it to Bihuniak, assuring him that the sentence he cited was not what was going to be in the ballot language. "This getting voted down does not prevent anybody from ... figuring out another way to do it. Is that what you're looking for?" French said.

"That could be," Bihuniak said.

Mayor Les Byram said if RAID's referendum, which would not allow the city to change the land's designation from parks to commercial and is expected to be on the November ballot, is approved by voters, or if voters turned down the city's request to potentially sell the land, "it would kill the project."

"I think that they're capitulating to Vestar, because really, Vestar has in excess of 200 acres on the north side, which would make a nice shopping center now," Bihuniak said.

"And they don't need to do the extra 160, but it's Vestar telling them, because we've seen the e-mails, that they don't want any competition on the south side. So now, that's why they're coming out with this bogus stuff about, 'well, if we don't get the 160 acres sold on the south side, or the permission to sell it, the whole deal is going to die.' So they're trying to lay it back on us. That's garbage. It's not true."

Bihuniak was referring to an e-mail from the city's representative on Kingman Crossing, Brian Kennedy, to the city manager in which he stated that Vestar and the property owner, Vanderbilt Farms LLC, would not continue with plans to develop the north side of I-40 if the city introduced commercial competition with another developer on the city's land to the south.

Bihuniak and Councilman Tom Carter went back and forth about the positives and negatives of Kingman Crossing. Carter said he wanted to set the record straight that the city isn't out to lose money or make this a bad project for the community.

He said shopping is what people want.

Bihuniak countered that the process has been backward and the city will be in better shape if it plans for future growth to the east and allows for park space on the 168 acres.