Flagstaff voters to decide on hospital rezoning, Appeals Court rules

FLAGSTAFF — Voters will decide on the rezoning of land near Fort Tuthill, where Northern Arizona Healthcare wants to build a new hospital, as Proposition 480 will remain on the November ballot, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled on Monday.The hospital system originally challenged the ballot referendum in late July claiming that the information presented to voters was misleading, specifically the mention of retail establishments that are not included in this phase of the proposed development plan.”In light of the decision, NAH is prepared to inform Flagstaff city voters that the referendum listed on the ballot as Proposition 480 is about building a hospital, not about building retail and commercial development,” NAH said in a statement following the court’s ruling.Flagstaff Community First, the coalition that submitted the referendum, has argued that their 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 the change to highway-commercial zoning legally allows, which includes retail businesses.“Now that both Coconino Superior Court and the Arizona Court of Appeals have ruled the referendum petition complied fully with the law, we urge NAH to stop misleading the public by trying to kick Prop 480 off the ballot,” Dr. Doug Mapel, chair of Flagstaff Community First, said in a statement after the ruling. “The courts couldn’t be more clear.”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 (Flagstaff Community First) did not act in a fraudulent or misleading manner or promote falsehood upon the voting public that may choose to weigh in on the referendum.”In May, the Flagstaff City Council voted to rezone a large swath of undeveloped land near Fort Tuthill County Park for the first phase of the new hospital project which includes a new 700,000-square-foot hospital. If approved, construction is expected to cost $800 million and be completed in 2027.It is the new project’s second phase that is expected to include housing, a hotel and healthcare-centered retail and restaurants to round out the health and wellness village.Soon after the City Council decision, various community groups formed the Flagstaff Community First coalition, which eventually collected thousands of community signatures leading to the approval of Proposition 480 to appear on the ballot.Reach the reporter at LLatch@gannett.com.The Republic’s coverage of northern Arizona is funded, in part, with a grant from Report for America. To support regional Arizona news coverage like this, make a tax-deductible donation at supportjournalism.azcentral.com

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