RAID protests rezone

If a referendum falls in the middle of an election and no one's around to support the public's decision, does it still count?

It's a rhetorical question, to be sure, but it was also the main issue of contention between members of Residents Against Irresponsible Development and representatives of Short-Bowers Investments, LLC at a rezoning hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday night.

Mohave Engineering Associates, Inc. had requested, on Short-Bowers' behalf, the rezoning of 24.25 acres of land at the northwest corner of Airway Avenue and North Castle Rock Road - 15.42 acres from R-R: Rural Residential to C-2: Commercial, Community Business and 8.83 acres from R-R to I-1: Light Industrial. P&Z approved the rezoning by a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Sandi Minkler the sole dissenter.

But not before both sides had a chance to chime in on the controversy surrounding the rezone. One of RAID's founders, Marvin Robertson, asked commissioners if the case didn't look familiar to them. It should have - the proposed C-2 section had originally been approved by the City Council in October of 2006, but was narrowly struck down by a RAID-sponsored referendum sent before the voters last November. The rezone failed with 48.32 percent of the vote.

In 2006 and 2007, residents in the area expressed opposition to the proposed rezone primarily due to the fact that C-2 could open the door for any number of highly-trafficked businesses, including gas stations, department stores and hotels.

The zoning also allows for such businesses as tattoo parlors, fortune-tellers and cocktail lounges, which also were cause for alarm. The current conceptual site plan for the C-2 area calls for a gas station at the corner of Castle Rock and Airway, with a bank and several retail businesses located elsewhere on the property. At Tuesday's meeting, RAID members presented the commission with a new petition opposing the rezone, bearing more than 40 signatures of residents near the property.

"Nothing has changed much since people have voted it down," Robertson said. "The most common comment we got from people was 'Again?'"

RAID president Mike Bihuniak said the local residents were not opposed to commercial development on the property, they just didn't want to see specific businesses, such as the gas station, built there. In a prior meeting, Bihuniak told one of the landowners, John Short, that RAID could accept the C-2 zoning with certain restrictions, but with no clear way of putting those restrictions in place short of rezoning to C-1, the options were few.

One local resident, Laura Cox, noted that another C-2 development was only a few blocks away at Kenwood and Eastern avenues. She questioned the need for more C-2 development in the area, and endorsed rezoning the property to C-1 instead.

"Are we going to have 18-wheelers coming up Airway all the time?" she said. "It's not appropriate in this neighborhood ... C-1 is appropriate."

But residential appeals didn't dissuade others from speaking up in support of the development. Realtor Larry Burlew likened RAID's efforts to a handful of people holding back Kingman's potential for growth.

"These people have a right to develop their property," Burlew said. "Something needs to change. We are going backwards."

Bill Bowers, of Short-Bowers Investments, said the issue, in his view, wasn't the plans he had for the property, but rather the power RAID's referendum brought them.

"You can't take this away from me," Bowers said. "The use of this site fits. RAID's agenda, let them go do it to somebody else."

Tim Walsh spoke on behalf of Mohave Engineering Associates, Inc., fielding several questions from Minkler. When Minkler asked Walsh why the rezone was being brought up again so soon after last year's referendum, Walsh said his opinion was that the last time around, voters hadn't been well informed on what they were voting for. Minkler said she hated to think all 1,971 citizens who voted against the rezone were ill informed when they did so. To be fair, Commissioner Dave Adams noted, the people also voted to pass the general plan, which originally called for the whole area to be zoned light industrial.

Ultimately, Commissioner Matt Ladendecker said, the only thing residents could do was talk to the property owners and try to compromise.

"You can't make everyone happy," he said. "I think the only way we can begin to be on the same page is communication."

With P&Z's approval, the rezone will go before the City Council for consideration May 5.