Benson City General Development Plan Referendum (May 2010)
November 23, 2009 the city council approved the rezoning of a 148 acre parcel of land within the city, city residents are trying to get a petition approved that would rather allow a referendum vote on the issue instead. The approved area would be rezoned to be high density residential and commercial, meaning the developers would be able to build a significant number of new houses and businesses. Local residents did not think it fair that neighboring communities were not asked their opinion of the rezoning or how an increase in houses would affect them. Many also did not think it right that the council push such an issue so quickly through the council without public meetings or opinions. In order for the petition to be approved, 76 valid signatures would be needed. Over 143 were turned in to the county election department, approval of them is pending.
Benson city Mayor, while respecting the people's right to petition for a referendum, sees this vote as a misguided attempt to have a say on the issue. The city council voted unanimously to allow for the re-zoning, the project has been in the works for around 5 years, the only dispute among the council members was to re-zone the area to medium or high density commercial. The difference would dictate what could be built on that land area. The added costs, up to $10,000 for the special election, is also seen as a needless expense on the city residents. But those residents who petitioned see this as their way to tell the council how they want their city to grow.
The man behind the petition drive has until May 13 to collect the 76 valid signatures from residents to force a special election on the issue. The Mayor does not understand the need for this referendum because a lesser development plan was approved, this seems to just be a referendum to oppose any decision the council makes. The petitioner believes he is saving the city money in the long run with this vote.