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Land Use and the Built Environment

Proposed Hospital Move

Letter to City Council: Published August 29, 2021 in 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

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 on title above to read the entire 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 Support 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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