KINGMAN - Local developers dodged a bullet Tuesday night when the Kingman Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously refused to initiate a pair of amendments that would have greatly limited the length of time developers could leave a plat undeveloped.
The amendments, if approved, would have shortened the approval period for a subdivision's preliminary plat from 24 months to 12 months, and would allow developers to seek a one-time, one-year extension on the plat, rather than the unlimited one-year extensions allowed by the current subdivision ordinance. The idea for the amendments came from the May 4 City Council meeting, where several councilmembers expressed their displeasure at having to routinely approve preliminary plat extensions for subdivisions that were not being built, due to the depressed real estate market.
The amendments were met with unanimous opposition from the development community, with no fewer than eight speakers speaking against the proposal Tuesday night, with none in favor. Doug Angle from Angle Homes kicked off the discussion, arguing that developers would be forced to spend thousands of dollars to redesign and resubmit preliminary plats, should they be allowed to expire.
"We have a subdivision that, right now, is on a one-year extension. We originally did the preliminary (plat) three years ago; the market was open and we expected to develop it," Angle said. "Obviously the market has changed, but we spent a considerable amount of money getting that subdivision through the preliminary plat process."
Angle calculated that, with 70 lots, his subdivision would generate about $800,000 in impact fees and sales tax revenue for the city. He said it would be in the city's best interest to maintain the status quo and continue its policy of unlimited one-year extensions so that, when the economy does recover, developers can move quickly to begin construction.
Angle added that, for large multi-phase subdivisions, it was more economical for developers to submit the preliminary plats for all phases at once, rather than do one phase at a time. That sentiment was shared by fellow developer and former mayoral candidate, Bill Nugent, who argued that plat extensions allowed developers to maintain integrity and continuity between the various phases of development.
"I realize that seeing these plans and a whole bunch of lots with nothing happening may be frustrating," Nugent said. "But if a man is starting on a phase or two phases and you jerk that ability away from him to know that he can go into his third or fourth or fifth phase and continue this continuity and integrity of the grading, drainage, streets - it would really be exactly backwards of what your duties are."
Nugent added that preliminary plats also play an important role in securing the necessary financing to build a subdivision. If Kingman were to become openly hostile to multi-year plat extensions, he said, local developers would lose the ability to assure financiers of their project's sustainability.
"You know what you're getting, the developers know what they're getting, the banks know what they're getting," he said. "You jerk these preliminary plats away, a man's statement is crushed. His financing is over."
'This is the wrong time'
Former city manager Lou Sorenson also argued against the amendments, agreeing that the current state of the economy was the main reason plats were not being developed, and that the frequent extensions were simply a necessary consequence.
"This is the wrong time to be putting this forward, absolutely the wrong time," Sorenson said. "Table it until the economy starts to look better, then take another look at it."
Commissioner Mike Schoeff made the motion against initiating the amendments, noting that he didn't want to support anything that would hinder the rebound of the local economy. "I'm not against hearing more extensions," Schoeff said. "I mean, that's why we're here."
Commission Chairwoman Dorian Trahan mused that several members of the current City Council were still relatively new to the office and may not have realized that frequent plat extensions are hardly a new phenomenon, despite the current downturn.
"I've been here 10 years, and we've seen more (plat extensions) recently due to the economy, but to me, it's never been a problem in the past," Trahan said. "I really hate to see us change what we have, because it's certainly not helping the people who are building this town."
Commissioner Todd Tarson seconded Schoeff's motion and the motion passed 7-0.