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Thu, Feb. 27

Councilman addresses meeting of RAID group

Councilman Tom Spear countered every argument thrown out by members of Residents Against Irresponsible Development at Wednesday's meeting.

Spear's attendance at RAID's final meeting before the Nov. 6 election surprised even the founding members of the group.

"Tom is the only one who will go into enemy territory," said Marvin Robertson, one of RAID's founders. "The mayor won't even go into the Republican forum without a gold-plated invitation."

Spear's presence did not subdue RAID members' attacks on City Council or on the issues with the upcoming ballot.

That ballot includes the sale of city-owned land at Kingman Crossing, bond issues for street, public safety and parks and recreation improvements, and two propositions concerning land use. Concerning the $56.7 million bond issues, RAID member Loyd Peterson said he thinks Council has an attitude that, "We want it all right now and to hell with the future."

He said the Council should never extend the city beyond 50 to 75 percent of its bonding capacity.

$56.7 million is near the limit of the city's current capacity.

"We can't let this Council 'handicap' - their own words - the future," Peterson said, referring to Mayor Les Byram's presentation about the bonds at the Oct. 16 meeting of the Coalition for Intelligent Votes by Informed Citizens group.

RAID member Bobby Nee said, "I don't hear anything coming out of anywhere asking how we can save money."

Nee suggested that buildings such as old radio stations could be rehabilitated and used instead of planning a new 911 communications center, one of the projects listed in the public safety improvements bond.

That bond includes funding for the design and land acquisition for such a center, but not for the building itself. That construction would have to be funded later, Spear said.

Nee said, "A building is a building. It's the equipment that [public safety officers] need," and that need could be filled by simply furnishing an existing building with the necessary technology, he said.

Mike Bihuniak, founding member of RAID, discussed Propositions 300 and 301, which address the rezoning of a parcel at the corner of Airway Avenue and North Castle Rock Road and the amendment of the land-use designation for the city's land at Kingman Crossing, respectively.

Proposition 300 is a referendum on city of Kingman Ordinance No. 1571, which allows the rezoning of about 15-1/2 acres on the northwest corner of Airway Avenue and North Castle Rock Road from Rural Residential to C-2: Commercial, Community Business.

Bihuniak refuted arguments in the voter's pamphlet for this proposition. One such argument is that the current residential zoning is not desirable due to the land's proximity to the railroad tracks. Bihuniak said there is a residential area just a quarter mile away from the parcel in question, backing up to the tracks.

Another argument is that the retirees who currently live in that area would like to see a shopping area developed. Bihuniak said a change to C-2 zoning, which allows businesses such as tattoo parlors, taverns and wireless communication facilities, is not desirable in a residential area, and that C-1 zoning, which allows businesses suited for "neighborhood convenience," would be a more appropriate change to address the shopping needs of the area.

The group discussed the Kingman Crossing land use designation in conjunction with the ballot issue concerning the sale of that city-owned land.

Because the land is currently designated as open space or park land on the Kingman General Plan 2020 map, RAID members and other attendees think this land should be used for the construction of a new park. Parks and recreation improvements are included in the bond election, they pointed out, and the 168 acres at Kingman Crossing could be a good location for a sports complex that will alleviate the capacity stresses on Centennial Park.

Spear said that parks are not a money maker for the city, and that Centennial Park has a negative cash flow. Bihuniak countered with the idea that the activities and tournaments at Centennial Park generate a lot of revenue for the city due to the sales tax revenues spent at restaurants, gas stations and hotel rooms.

Spear further commented that 168 acres of land could be purchased elsewhere for parks, but the city property's "highest and best use is as commercial, sales-tax generating land," particularly due to the easy access that could be created if a traffic interchange is constructed there.

This statement aroused other worries for those attending the meeting, including the possibility that money approved for street improvements in the upcoming bond election could be diverted to the Kingman Crossing interchange if Council determined it was an "emergency" need.

However, Spear said, "I for one would be very reluctant to change any of the priorities after the voters have voted on [the bond issues]."

Meeting attendees also voiced concerns about paying for such an interchange.

RAID member Gwen Gillman said she had heard that Vestar Development Co., the only known prospective buyer of the land at Kingman Crossing, would not participate in paying the costs associated with constructing the interchange. She further stated that Vestar had originally promised to pay for half of the total costs.

Spear said there are three ways to finance such a construction project: participation in a community facilities district, repayment of sales tax and bonding.

While a combination of all three financing options would likely be utilized in this case, Spear said he believed the bulk of the necessary funds would be derived from the community facilities district.

A community facilities district assesses neighboring property owners for the value they receive from the project, with the balance paid by the city. Spear said Vestar has agreed to participate in such a program should it purchase the city land.

Those attending the meeting said they do not think now is the right time to try to sell the land at Kingman Crossing.

Nee said there are 320 homes in foreclosure in Kingman currently, and the entire country is facing an economic slump that could devalue the acreage. Gillman said she did not think the city could get more than $10 million for the land at this time, which would lead to a deficit in the funds needed to complete the interchange.

In an interview Thursday, Spear said there is no current appraisal for the Kingman Crossing land, but the land would be far more valuable with an interchange either in place or at least approved. He also said the land should be appraised before any sale takes place.

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