The Kingman, Arizona City Council has rejected Wal-Mart’s request for a zoning change to pave the way for a supercenter. According to the Kingman Miner newspaper, the company needed a supermajority vote of six Council members — but the vote went down 5-2. “Whatever happens next is up to Wal-Mart and the citizens of Kingman,” Mayor Les Byram told the newpaper. “The City Council supported the superstore 5 to 2, but two votes were enough to deny the zoning request.” The two Council members who nixed the plan said they were concerned about traffic and lost jobs in competing grocery stores. At the City Council meeting on August 4th, a Wal-Mart spokesman said a group not affiliated with Wal-Mart had collected 17,000 “customer signatures” in support of a superstore. The 11.5 acres coveted by Wal-Mart is apparently owned by Mohave County, and the company is now asking the county to extend the closing date on the property to keep the proposal alive. But the county Manager says he will hold Wal-Mart to the deal, which was not contingent on proper zoning. “The property was sold ‘as is’ with no deals on the zoning,” the county official said. “We are expecting them to deal in good faith… The land was offered at public auction. As far as we are concerned, the property is theirs.” The company bid $652,500 for the property. The land Wal-Mart bid on is apparently shown as a regional shopping center in the Kingman General Plan. The site needed a supermajority vote because Smith’s Food & Drug, the only other private landowner abutting the Wal-Mart site, owns more than 20% of the land on the boundary. Smith’s objected to the rezoning. Under City zoning, a substantial abuttor can seek a supermajority vote. The 11.5 acres under contention is only one of four parcels Wal-Mart plans to link to comprise a 25 acre site big enough to hold a 200,000 s.f. superstore.
If your city or town does not have a supermajority voting process, talk to local officials about how to change your code to make sure that neighboring properties have the ability to oppose a rezoning they find inimical. Talk to a land use lawyer to make sure such a “20% abuttors” supermajority law is consistent with state zoning laws in your state. A simple zoning change like this could stall a superstore in your community.