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Land Use and the Built Environment

Friends of Flagstaff’s Future supports policies that promote sustainable and equitable growth. This includes mixed use development that includes all housing types, historic neighborhood preservation and adaptive reuse, walkable neighborhoods close to public transit and affordable housing throughout the community. We believe that infill and redevelopment projects should result in “No Net Loss” of affordable housing. We maintain that development must not deplete or damage the environmental stability or the social cohesiveness of the community.
Among the many things related to this commitment are the protection of our water resources (both quantity and purity), open spaces, air quality, viewsheds, and land characteristics that contribute to the ecological beauty of our community. We oppose development that leads to environmental degradation, misuse of resources, and erosion of our shared community wealth. We support development fees that cover the costs of growth, not just for police and fire protection but for all infrastructure including new roads, water and sewer expansion. We believe that, through the discretionary zoning review process, neighbors and other concerned citizens with an interest in the health of the whole community should carry the same weight — and possibly more– than that of the property owners, developers and business interests who profit from these zone changes.

Proposed Hospital Move

Letter to City Council: Published August 29, 2021 in the Arizona Daily Sun, Letters to the Editor

A letter to the Mayor and Council:

There has been much discussion within the community this summer about the proposed move of the hospital to the southern edge of Flagstaff’s city limits. This is a significant development issue that directly and indirectly affects much of the population of Flagstaff as well as the character of our community.

Two main issues deserve wide public input before any decisions are made about the relocation of the hospital:

What are the positive and negative impacts on the community of moving the hospital from a central location in town to a location at the outskirts of the city? And what will happen to the current hospital site on North Beaver Street? Both of these issues have enormous impact on the community as a whole and they deserve to be given thorough consideration.

Friends of Flagstaff’s Future, speaking on behalf of our hundreds of members, requests the Council ensure a transparent review process that includes robust community input. Among the many questions to be answered are:

— What are the opportunities, limitations and drawbacks to the community?

— What are the impacts on the city’s commitment to sustainability, smart growth and climate resilience?

— What is the plan for the current hospital site and how does that fit with our regional plan?

— What is the proposed timeline and how will it ensure adequate community input?

The community needs the process of evaluating the hospital relocation to proceed at a pace that will allow consideration of the above questions.

MICHELE JAMES
Executive Director, Friends of Flagstaff's Future

F3’s Virtual Public Forum about the proposed hospital move: November 8, 2021.

The recording is available here.

In preparation for this public forum on the proposed hospital move, F3 developed the following questions we’d like NAH to address during the virtual meeting. These questions focus on the effects that the proposed relocation will or may have on the community of Flagstaff and surrounding areas:

1. How was the decision made by NAH to propose a relocation of the hospital? What process was used and what alternatives were evaluated? Who was involved in those initial discussions?

If the hospital is successful in getting it's rezoning and site plans approved by the City:

2. What property does NAH own in the area around the existing hospital site? What are your plans for these and the NAH properties that would be left unoccupied as a result of the proposed hospital move? What are the acreages and current zoning designations of the existing hospital and other NAH-owned properties proximate to the existing hospital?

3. What is NAH’s planned timeline for developing or selling the existing hospital site and other nearby NAH properties? What responsibility to the community does NAH believe they have as a result of the proposal to move the hospital?

4. Is NAH willing to discuss options for uses of the existing hospital building and other NAH-owned lands in a manner that would benefit the Flagstaff community? The existing hospital has great potential for affordable housing and local, appropriately sized (small) businesses, for example. Would NAH be willing to hold a series of public forums to receive input from the Flagstaff community on potential beneficial uses of the existing hospital and other NAH lands? Is NAH willing to work with the community to develop a “master plan” that outlines the specifics of future development of these lands?

5. Would NAH consider selling the old hospital to another healthcare provider? Is the new hospital seen by NAH as a means to keep out competition with other healthcare providers?

6. Given the costs associated with the building of a new hospital, and the potential lack of competition for health services in the Flagstaff area, will healthcare costs increase as a result?

7. The construction of a new hospital building is an opportunity for NAH to invest in Flagstaff’s carbon neutrality goals: Will the proposed new hospital be built in a way that minimizes carbon emissions? If so, how and by how much? Will NAH choose to be a model for the industry and build a carbon neutral hospital?

8. We understand that Mountain Line is engaging in conversations with NAH about the much needed addition of a bus route to the proposed new hospital location. The cost of this additional bus route is estimated to be approximately $1M per year. Many in our community are concerned that this cost will be paid by the public rather than by NAH as it’s our understanding that Mountain Line does not have the funding to pay for this route. At a time when Flagstaff is actively working to reduce our carbon emissions to address the City’s Climate Emergency, and moving toward the goal of increasing public transportation options, Mountain Line could be forced to reduce existing bus routes and service in order to pay for this new route. Is NAH committing to paying for this new bus route given the choice they have made to propose a relocation of the hospital to outside of the city core? For what length of time would NAH be willing to pay for the cost of this new bus line?

9. Flagstaff has a severe shortage of affordable and workforce housing and has declared a housing emergency. Does NAH plan to provide affordable and workforce housing for the additional employees that would be employed at the proposed new hospital? If so, will NAH include deed restrictions to keep the housing affordable in the event there is a change in ownership of the hospital in the future?

10. Is NAH willing to work with the city to implement a housing assistance program for hospital employees who wish to purchase a home in Flagstaff or nearby communities?

White Paper: Aura Development & Rezoning (July 2021)

The Aura Development and Rezone project was both complex and unusual in nature. It holds important lessons for F3, our elected officials, and the community of Flagstaff. The project is a case study in competing values. Council had to deal with how the values of fairness, affordability, housing density, neighborhood character, and commitment to the Regional Plan can conflict with each other. We hope this examination of the Aura Project will inform our members and the Flagstaff community about the difficulties of the rezoning process while providing some suggestions for dealing with future rezones for dense development. (Click here to read F3's white paper).

Neighborhood Community Commercial (NCC) Proposed Zoning Amendment

Background on NCC Zoning

Tall buildings like those recently built for student housing along Milton Road and W. Route 66 are currently allowed in places that would surprise most of us. They are allowed anywhere north (N. End) and south of downtown (Southside), even next to the public library. Five and six story buildings are also allowed anywhere in the Sunnyside Neighborhood bordered by 4th Street, Cedar Avenue and McMillan Mesa. This is not the result of any recent comprehensive planning, but an historic artifact.

City staff proposed to council on both August 25, 20201 and April 27, 2021 a new zone called the Neighborhood Community Commercial (NCC). This zoning contains all the rights that the current Community Commercial (CC) zone has except it reduces the height limit from 60 feet to 45 feet. City Council Council indicated on April 27th that they want to proceed with the creation of the NCC zone and the staff-recommended outreach to the three affected communities. This basically puts the zoning amendment on “the books” as a tool that these future communities can use if they'd like. Future public processes would allow the option to change the zoning in all or a portion of the three neighborhoods from an existing CC zone to NCC. The result would be a lower building height limit of three to four stories in identified areas within those neighborhoods.

To give you a sense of what this means, The Jack (formerly The Hub) is a six-story building, built in a neighborhood of one- and two-story buildings. The Marriott downtown is six stories, as is The Drury Inn. By comparison, Hotel Monte Vista is four stories, and The Weatherford is three. 

Council Action

The NCC zone amendment was presented and discussed at the Council working meeting on Tuesday, April 27th. Council indicated that they want to proceed with the creation of the NCC zone and the staff-recommended outreach to the three affected communities. Future Council meetings will be scheduled to review the specifics for the rezoning of each of the three neighborhoods when an application is submitted.

F3 Supports NCC Zoning, Density, and Affordable Housing

F3 supports the NCC zone amendment because it allows for a more compatible building height in these three historic neighborhoods (Southside, N. End and Sunny Side), while also allowing for increased upward housing density as outlined in Flagstaff’s Regional Plan. The NCC zoning concept is a product of discussions with Flagstaff citizens during the development of the High Occupancy Housing Specific Plan. The High Occupancy Housing Specific Plan was developed as a response to the building of a six-story student housing unit (The Hub, now named The Jack) in an historic neighborhood composed of one and two-story homes. The concern of many citizens was that The Hub did not fit with the character of the existing, older neighborhood in which it was built. As such, the High Occupancy Housing Specific Plan’s implementation strategies include lowering the height in Community Commercial zones to 45 feet.

In addition, the 2020 Council-adopted Southside Community Plan contains policies that building heights in some portions of the Southside neighborhood should not exceed 45 feet. We are pleased that the work that went into the Southside Plan and is now supported by the NCC zoning, provides the residents with a means to lower the Community Commercial building heights in all or portions of their neighborhood.

The NCC zoning amendment allows these three older neighborhoods to retain their historic and smaller-scale character. Maintaining such character by lowering building heights by 15 feet will not preclude the development of affordable housing in these neighborhoods. Affordable housing within the NCC zoning is possible although at a scale that is more compatible with the neighborhood. In addition, some of these NCC zoning areas may be located immediately adjacent to areas that retain the 60-foot Community Commercial zoning and larger-scale affordable housing can be provided in these areas.

F3 understands that the three neighborhoods that are being considered are walkable and close to public transport and are therefore desirable locations for increased housing density. The NCC zoning represents a reasonable compromise at this time between maintaining neighborhood character in these three locations while also creating space for higher-density housing. It’s beneficial in these older neighborhoods to build incrementally such that a one-story house is not suddenly adjacent to a six-story building, but instead, is adjacent to a more compatible two- or three-story building. This amendment is a valuable tool for the City and its citizens to have in its” toolbox.”

For more information about NCC zoning including maps and photos, please look at the public material provided by the City at the two City Council meetings.

 

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