Flagstaff City Council hears update on proposed Flagstaff Medical Center campus | #citycouncil

Flagstaff City Council on Thursday discussed Northern Arizona Healthcare’s (NAH) plans for the new Flagstaff Medical Center (FMC) campus during a retreat.

NAH first submitted applications to build a new FMC campus near Fort Tuthill County Park in April of 2021. The plans would include a hospital, ambulatory care center (ACC), and larger health and wellness village to be built in stages.

NAH has over the last year hosted a variety of community meetings on the project as it has developed its plans and worked with the city to get them approved. Most recently, it submitted development review applications to the city, with a 60-day agency review of the specific plan beginning June 3. 

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According to the proposed timeline NAH presented Thursday, the project will be brought to the city’s planning and zoning commission for a work session on Oct. 26. The commission then plans to have two public hearings on Nov. 9 and either Nov. 16 or 23 before bringing it to the city council for two hearings currently set for Dec. 6 and Dec. 13.

NAH is also planning another neighborhood meeting on the project for Monday, Oct. 10. It can be accessed here.

City of Flagstaff senior planner Tiffany Antol presented on the plan at the retreat, explaining the timeline of the city’s work with NAH on the project.

Applications need to go through both a completeness and substantive review before being approved by the city.

After five rounds of comments and submitted, she said, the application finished the completeness review on Feb. 25 of this year.

The substantive review began the same day and the application has been moving through that process for about seven months, with NAH and the city exchanging work on the document.

Assuming the meetings happen according to schedule and plan is approved at each, NAH now hopes to break ground — with the hospital and ACC opening in 2027.

Antol’s presentation covered current progress on the plan, amendments that would need to be made to the city plan and areas with outstanding issues.

City amendments

Antol mentioned four minor amendments that would need to be made to the regional plan: changing the activity center’s area type to a regional rather than neighborhood scale to reflect the proposed village’s anticipated regional draw, moving the center of a future suburban activity center over the hospital’s location, rather than the road intersection of a former planned development, designating the center and the area to its south as employment area, and — “the big one” — to realign Beulah Boulevard’s future corridor.

The regional plan currently moves Beulah to the west of its current alignment to allow for a future underpass of Interstate 17.

Antol said leaving Beulah at its current location would still allow for the proposed intersection, though the location of the intersection will be depressed once it is built.

The project would also require amendments to the specific plan for the new campus’s location. Amendments include building placement (setting the hospital farther back from I-17 to avoid noise), landscaping standards, bike parking (which would increase), the layout and design of parking spaces, and parking lots and definitions.

An amendment to the specific plan would also be needed for building height, as the proposed hospital building is proposed at 160 feet, exceeding the maximum building height allowed in any zoning category by 100 feet.

Antol noted that the site plan lists the tallest part of the hospital building standing at 142 feet. The majority of the hospital building is 112 feet tall and the parking garage would be 65 feet tall. The tallest section is also the elevator penthouse, she said — which is usually not considered in zoning height determinations.

“We generally allow those elevator bulk heights to go about 15 feet above what the normal height would be, but no matter what, we’re going to be over that height,” she said.

The zoning map would also need changes, as the 172.6-acre property is currently zoned as a mixture of rural residential, estate residential and single-family residential. The majority (109.7 acres) would be rezoned to highway commercial, with 27.8 acres being rezoned to research and development, and 35.2 acres being rezoned to public facilities.

Continuing concerns

Antol described the outstanding issues listed in her presentation as “places where we need to overcome, get direction, things we need to resolve in order to move forward.”

Many of these had to do with traffic and transportation, though she also mentioned fires, the existing hospital and the hospital’s height as needing more consideration.

Items in the transportation impact analysis that need further consideration include analysis of internal roadways and intersections, roundabouts, the airport bridge over I-17 and special-event scenarios.

Antol also discussed roadway design for the four main roads in the project: Beulah Boulevard, Healthcare Boulevard, Purple Sage Trail and Wellness Loop.

Beulah is anticipated to widen for the project, with a rural lane on the side bordering I-17 and bike lanes and a multimodal path on the other side. Healthcare will eventually connect to Woody Mountain Road, and Purple Sage will be improved and relocated.

Wellness Loop is missing a connection off of NAH’s property.

“This has been one of the continuing conversations between staff and [NAH],” Antol said. “Right now, the planning documents have included roundabouts at the end of healthcare and at the end of wellness loop. Staff would still urge that these roadways be completed or that we reach some kind of agreement as utilities also need to be extended at least within one corridor. Setting those utilities right in conjunction with what will be a future roadway bed will be extremely important to not place an additional burden on an adjacent development as they should move forward.”

She also mentioned concerns that the signalized intersections planned for Beulah’s intersections with Purple Sage and Healthcare might be too close together. Roundabouts have been proposed as one potential solution.

The proposed transportation mitigation currently in the plan prioritizes impacts to areas nearest the new campus. This includes completing improvements to Beulah before the hospital or ACC is occupied. NAH will also “support the city with future grant funding opportunities” and will complete a second traffic impact analysis after the first buildings are occupied.

According to the presentation, NAH is also proposing to provide transit services along with the hospital and ACC development. In the development agreement, this will include paratransit services, no-cost transportation for ambulatory discharge patients and access to public transportation or point to point transportation services.

“The project represents significant increases to the city’s fire protection and service delivery demands,” Antol said of the outstanding issues relating to fire service. “Essentially, we’re taking what is an urban facility today and moving it further out from our urban core, an area where we had not anticipated maybe the expansion or intensity of use, but also the increase in building height. Enhancement to current capabilities are necessary to support the rezoning of the property.”

NAH and the city have both agreed to work through a standards of cover analysis for the city that has not yet been completed. Waiting to receive the information, Antol said, would mean going past the deadline NAH has requested to move the application forward.

As for the current location, Antol said her work is more focused on plans for the health and wellness village, but that “there have been conversations about including language in the development agreement for this current entitlement project, and there are ongoing efforts.”

In his presentation of NAH’s plans, Steve Eiss, vice president of construction and real estate development, said the organization is in the process of establishing a redevelopment council that includes both city and community leaders.

NAH is under contract with Progressive Urban Management Associates (PUMA) to help with this work. 

“We feel over the next few years that we’ll be able to put together what we feel will be a very prosperous community development process with the existing campus,” he said. 

Antol’s presentation also included suggestions a variety of city staff would like to see included in the project, including a transportation demand management (TDM) program, active recreation amenities and provisions to respond to the climate and housing emergencies.

“You’re moving a major employer from the center of town out to the outskirts. This is a great opportunity for NAH to move forward with encouraging active modes of transportation,” she said when explaining the TDM suggestion.

“We know that most patients will not be using those active modes of transportation when visiting this hospital. There are a lot of staff that work here, there are a lot of administrative workers, there are a lot of people who can use alternative modes. Maybe not the ER doctor, we get that, but we still think it’s important that transportation demand management be included in this project.”

A recording of the meeting, which also includes discussion of the project and a presentation from NAH, can be viewed here.

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