Court to rule on Flagstaff hospital’s challenge to ballot referendum by next week


FLAGSTAFF — The Arizona Court of Appeals was expected to rule by next week on Northern Arizona Healthcare’s challenge of a ballot referendum about the construction of its new hospital campus.During oral arguments on Thursday morning, an attorney for the health care system argued the referendum that was passed around to voters did not make clear the fact that the area’s rezoning is specifically for the construction of a new hospital. Daniel Arellano also objected to the referendum’s mention of retail trade businesses or establishments, which are not specifically outlined in the first phase of the project.Arellano argued the wording was ultimately misleading and therefore should be struck from the November ballot. The court is expected to rule by Aug. 23.James Barton, an attorney representing Flagstaff Community First, the coalition that submitted the referendum, instead argued that the specific reference to Northern Arizona Healthcare’s “Health Village Phase 1 Specific Plan” was enough information for voters in relation to the new hospital and that they simply provided examples of what highway-commercial zoning legally allows, which includes retail businesses.”Nothing we said was untrue, nothing we said was misleading,” Barton argued.The hospital system claims voters who signed Flagstaff Community First’s petition for the referendum, known as Proposition 480, “were not given accurate information about NAH’s new hospital project,” NAH said in a statement originally announcing its request on July 26.”The referendum petition voters signed says the site will be used to construct retail and commercial space, with no mention of health care facilities. In fact, under the terms of the zoning ordinance, NAH is not allowed to construct retail and commercial space on the hospital site,” it said.Arizona case law requires a court to disqualify any referendum from the ballot if the description “communicates objectively false or misleading information” about the measure being referred.The NAH challenge was previously struck down by Coconino County Superior Court Judge Brent Harris on Aug. 4 who in his decision said, “by failing to include every possible example of permitted uses the committee (Flagst …

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