KINGMAN - City Manager John Dougherty fully expects to run into opposition as the Council possibly moves toward a major amendment to the general plan that would lead to the creation of Kingman Crossing.
The city owns nearly 170 acres that spans south of Interstate 40 to Airfield Avenue between Sage and Cherokee Streets and could conceivably sell nearly 160 of them to private developers.
The major amendment would change the designation of the land from open space and parks to regional commercial. The ultimate plan calls for the construction of a freeway interchange that would:
Allow developers to build businesses that would create jobs, add shopping choices for residents and bolster the city's revenues.
Provide desperately needed access to an area of the city that is growing, but that is cut off from easy access for emergency responders.
Dougherty understands the concerns of people who don't agree with the plan and he knows voters in 2007 overwhelmingly rejected the project in a referendum that was on that year's general election ballot.
Most importantly, he, and the City Council, are committed to keeping the public in the loop.
"We need to find out what people want," he said. "Is it a Costco and Sam's Club? What about restaurants like an Applebee's? A hotel? A Kohl's department store?"
Voters still have a say
Dougherty pointed out that voters must approve the sale of any city asset valued at more than $500,000.
If the city wanted to circumvent voters, however, the city could sell off the acreage in pieces.
"I don't want to do that. Nobody wants to do that," he said. "We want everybody to have their say. And a lot of people say we don't have enough shopping opportunities in Kingman. They say traffic on Stockton Hill Road is terrible."
The biggest obstacle, even more than opposition from voters, is the construction of the proposed Kingman Crossing interchange.
While the price tag in 2007 was estimated to be $25 million, the same project today could cost $35 million to $40 million, said Dougherty. The Arizona Department of Transportation has told the city there is no money for the project and no plans to build a fourth interchange in Kingman.
That means developers will have to foot the cost - with a big assist from taxpayers.
"That will cause a lot of heartburn for the Council," he said.
Do we need it?
From Dougherty's perspective, the only way the city can grow - and increase revenues sufficiently to expand services to meet that growth - is to add to the retail base. Sales tax is the only revenue generator in the city, which has no primary property tax.
But there are other issues just as important, such as public safety. He noted much of the housing development occurring in Kingman is in the area of the proposed Kingman Crossing, but access to the site is difficult. The closest fire station is on Harrison Street not far from Andy Devine. Crews responding to the area must travel to Airway Avenue.
The Harrison Street station is already the busiest in Kingman, he said, and the difficulty of getting to the area in a timely fashion would seriously affect response times.
Long-dormant plans for a second new interchange several miles east of the proposed Kingman Crossing would be a better fit for the city, according to members of Residents Against Irresponsible Development, a group that spearheaded opposition to Kingman Crossing in 2007.
When asked if the city would consider developing an interchange where the interstate meets Rattlesnake Wash, also known as Rancho Santa Fe, Dougherty said, "We have to play our dominoes one at a time."
He said there is no development currently under way in the area of Rattlesnake Wash, including the lack of feeder roads for an interchange.
"People say there is nothing out there is a reason to build there, but that's the problem," he said. "There is nothing out there to support it."
The Route 66 Fix
Dougherty said the current designation of the city's land as open space never should have occurred.
"We would never recommend a park along the interstate," he said. "But we do have an issue with Route 66. There are a lot of empty lots on the highway and it looks like people are looking to spur growth there. There are people either looking to buy or looking to sell."
There are two bottom lines for Dougherty. One is improving access for first responders and law enforcement officers, the other is bringing in more retail outlets, restaurants and other amenities that would serve residents - and add to the city's tax base.
"We have to exploit what we have," said Dougherty.