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1:33 PM Tue, Nov. 13th

Is Kingman a retirement community? RAID sure hopes so

The organization Residents Against Irresponsible Development wants Kingman to become a retirement community, according to member Loyd Peterson.

Just look at the group's membership and this fact is pretty easy to determine, even without reading Peterson's recent post on RAID's Web site. In the course of my job duties, I have attended two RAID meetings, and I am the youngest person in the room, probably by about 25 years.

Apparently, just because a group of a few people who already have gone through their years as "struggling business owners" decide they now want to sit back and relax in a town with little taxation and growth, the rest of us, who moved here to raise families and struggle through businesses ourselves, have to suffer.

I'm not a fan of taxation either. I'd like to keep every dime of my paycheck, as would most people. I recall an episode of the sitcom "Friends," in which Rachel takes her first job, and upon receiving her first paycheck, says, "Who's this FICA guy? Why is he getting all my money?"

It isn't necessarily pleasant, but taxes and bonds are how things get done in cities. While this may mean some financial discomfort, particularly for those living on fixed incomes, the goal of building a vital city for my future children to live in is worth the pain.

In a response to an e-mail from Todd Tarson, a local Realtor, Peterson essentially said that if the ballot issues fail (they did), Kingman's future hopes are not "dashed" because it could become a haven for retirees. He mentioned that Sun City and Sun City West, Del Webb master-planned retirement communities outside Phoenix, were "built by dribbles of retirees over a very few years - what can we honestly expect to happen to Kingman as 10,000 people per day ... start to look for a place in the sun?"

Personally, I would expect that we could balance the growing retired population with that of people, like me, who are younger and just starting out in their careers, people who want to both raise children and move their retired parents into the community (as I have). Let's not forget that the Sun Cities were founded as master-planned communities - not as cities with lives of their own and existing populations prior to their use as retirement communities.

Would Mr. Peterson like my young, professional husband and I to someday sell our home to whatever developer he sees fit to appropriate it for use as a community clubhouse for his master-planned Kingman? Ridiculous.

Mr. Peterson said in his response to Tarson's e-mail that he was "probably the strongest pro-growth advocate that lived within the boundaries of Kingman" 20 or 30 years ago. "As a struggling business owner, it seemed a viable and worthy goal at the time, which could only benefit my success and the needs of my family," he said.

However, Peterson continued, "Today, reasonably successful and comfortably retired, that worthy goal has changed to a position of defending my home from the relentless tax collector and the thoughtless incursion of commercial developers into my neighborhood or anything that would threaten my ability to live on my 'fixed' income."

Well, how lovely that Mr. Peterson has decided that, now that he's comfortable and no longer requires commercial stimulation in his town, the rest of us should live without it as well. Apparently, I need to jump in some wormhole that leads to the days when I am retired, so that I, too, can live in his backwards thinking little utopia. Hopefully, by then, my kids, unborn now but all grown up by virtue of my time travel, will be earning a living somewhere other than Kingman and can support their parents, who were never able to earn to their full potential due to growth-limiting groups like RAID.

We moved here because we were assured that Kingman was growing, becoming a so-called bedroom community for Las Vegas. We moved here because we saw value in that - increased value in our home and increased opportunities for our children. Many others moved to Kingman for the same reason. Now, because some retired folks long for the bucolic days of old, we are being punished and possibly made to wait for necessary improvements and new developments that could make Kingman an even more amazing place to live.

I understand RAID's fears. My mother lives on a fixed income, and I'm sure that extra money out of her pocket each year will not be a welcome burden. But she is realistic. She knows that Kingman has to grow. Moreover, she WANTS it to grow. She wants to be able to shop locally without being forced to go to Wal-Mart or some dollar store. She sees value in this as much as my husband and I do. How lovely would it be if, when I have children and they need clothes for school, I don't have to drive to Henderson to buy them?

Mr. Peterson seems to be forgetting that there is a lot more opportunity for commerce in his beloved Sun Cities. According to www.suncityaz.org, there are seven major strip shopping centers in the area, along with many other shopping plazas. In addition, the community is located only about 20 minutes from a large shopping area in Phoenix.

In Kingman, we are more than an hour away from major shopping. For busy families, such a time commitment simply to run errands and browse in a mall is prohibitive. Even without kids, I only make the trip once every month or less. Just think of the economic consequences for Kingman if that shopping was located here in town and I could run to an honest to goodness mall every now and then rather than waiting until I can make the trek out to Henderson or Vegas. Crazy idea, I know.

Also, if Mr. Peterson truly wants to live in his own little Sun City, I suggest he research those types of communities first. According to its Web site, Sun City charges property taxes equal to about $800 for a $200,000 home. Condos start at $85,000, while single-family homes range from $150,000 to $500,000.

There is also a $300 one-time fee to "set the new owner up as a member" in the community. Then, there is a $2,500 one-time capital preservation assessment. That's right - even in Sun City, you have to pay for capital improvements. Finally, property owners are charged a $380-per-year property assessment, mostly for the privilege of using Sun City's recreation facilities. Golf and bowling are extra.

In Sun City West, homeowners are charged "as low as" $500 per $100,000 of their homes' values for property taxes; $296 per year for property management; $2,000 upon purchase for annual preservation (that is, those pesky capital improvements); $144 per year for trash removal; and varying fees charged by individual homeowners' associations for external maintenance and landscaping.

So, let me say it this way: We can pay for capital improvements to help grow our little city into a real contender for our children's futures, rather than shipping them out to other areas of the state and country. Or, we can pay for capital improvements to turn our town into a retirement community, and the rest of us can just move away.

I'd like to think that retirees would see a benefit to cohabitating with younger, vibrant people who can afford to build new businesses here, contribute to the city's culture, revitalize downtown and provide services for young and old alike. But, I suppose Mr. Peterson and other RAID members would prefer people like me to leave town so they can enjoy their old age in peace, while Kingman's position on the map is sorely under-utilized as a retirement community, rather than the cultural and commercial hub it could have been.