KINGMAN - The issue of "encroaching commercialism" proved a divisive one at the Kingman City Council meeting Monday evening, with council members at odds over whether to approve or deny a residential rezone to commercial.
Council discussed at length a proposal by Jerry and Diana Fulps to rezone a vacant 12,000-square-foot piece of land at the southeast corner of Van Buren Street and Karen Avenue from R-1-6: Single Family Residential to C-2-HMR: Commercial, Hualapai Mountain Road Overlay District.
Both city staff and the Planning and Zoning Commission had recommended denial of the rezone, reasoning that the Fulpses already owned a piece of C-2 property in the area that they have not developed, and there were already more than 200 acres of undeveloped or vacant commercial property along the Hualapai Mountain Road business corridor.
But a thin majority on Council didn't appear to buy that argument, opting to side instead with the Fulpses' representative, Jeff Holdsworth, who argued that the reason the Fulpses had not yet developed their current C-2 property was because a family was still occupying it from when it was zoned residential.
Until that family moved out, Holdsworth argued, the Fulpses would be unable to develop anything on the property. Likewise, he said, most other nearby commercial land was much larger than the parcel the Fulpses were seeking to rezone, leaving it the most convenient for them to develop.
But when exactly the Fulpses planned to develop the land remained unclear. Councilwoman Erin Cochran noted that, while they had filed a proposal for a small office or retail building, the Fulpses had not included any proposed timetable, nor any specifics on the nature of the business itself.
Several council members were also concerned that, with Mission Bank already occupying the corner of Karen and Jackson Street, the Fulps rezone would impose commercial zoning on both ends of the block, effectively putting the squeeze on the two remaining residential properties along Karen's south side.
Over a nearly 40-minute discussion, council members appeared to fall into two camps on the issue. Cochran, Dick Anderson and Janet Watson agreed with P&Z's recommendation that the rezone appeared speculative and should be denied at least until the Fulpses could come up with a more specific development plan. Carole Young, Keith Walker, Robin Gordon and Mayor John Salem favored the rezone, agreeing that the Fulpses had been good stewards of the property they already owned, and that the rezone ultimately fit with the city's general plan.
Gordon proposed that one possible way of addressing some neighborhood concerns about a new business creating too much traffic for residents along the north side of Karen Avenue would be to require the Fulpses to only allow access to the property from Van Buren Street. Salem also suggested dropping the requested zoning from C-2 to C-1, which he said would allow fewer objectionable uses such as gas stations but would still give the Fulpses their retail/office building. Holdsworth agreed that C-1 zoning would not prove a problem for his clients.
But Watson said she had a serious problem giving in to the Fulpses' request after both city staff and the Planning and Zoning Commission indicated strong opposition to the rezone. She questioned whether her colleagues were attempting to represent the concerns of both residential and commercial interests, or whether they were allowing personal opinions to override the duty to their constituents.
"We have those staff members and those commissioners to issue recommendations based on sound judgment," Watson said. "I don't think we come to the table with our personal opinions, we come to the table trying to represent the community, the neighborhood, and remembering that we have people that are representing us at other levels, and I think that stands for something."
Anderson further argued that the area along Karen Avenue had originally been envisioned as a residential street, which is what existing residents believed when they bought their homes there. Allowing both ends of the block between Van Buren and Jackson to be rezoned to commercial, he argued, "isn't what they signed up for."
Watson ultimately made a motion to deny the rezone, with Anderson seconding. The motion failed 3-4, with Cochran joining the two in voting yes. Gordon then made a motion to approve rezoning the property to C-1 with an added stipulation that no traffic access would be allowed from Karen Avenue.
Before Council could vote, however, City Attorney Carl Cooper cut in to suggest the ordinance be redrafted to reflect the changes. Watson also requested that the Fulpses include a letter in writing stating that they were willing to accept the new zoning.
Gordon then made a motion to table the item for one month to give Cooper a chance to redraft it, with Young's second. The motion passed 6-1, with Watson's the sole dissenting vote.
Monday's was Council's second major repudiation of Planning and Zoning in as many months. In July, Council voted to remove many of the restrictions P&Z had suggested for LED business signs, particularly limitations on animation and minimum message duration.
That decision came after more than seven months of back and forth discussions between the two groups. P&Z has since taken up the issue of LED billboards but has opted not to discuss the issue any further until commissioners hold a joint meeting with Council to figure out exactly what it is they want.