This piece was originally published on March 31 2016 in the Coconino Voices guest editorial section of the Arizona Daily Sun.
For over 10 months — since May 2015 — hundreds of community members have expressed concern about the proposed high-occupancy (660 beds) student housing development known as the Hub. During the first several months, numerous individuals met with City staff and wrote letters to the editor, City staff, and City Council. Over 1,400 people signed an online petition to request that the City deny the developer’s rezoning request.
The concerns about the Hub involved density and size, scale, compatibility with the Southside neighborhood, safety, noise, parking and traffic — all issues which have been brought up repeatedly.
Over time property owners, business owners, homeowners, tenants, students and neighborhood groups came together with the shared conclusion that a development of this size, scale and density is not appropriate for this location in this Southside neighborhood. As the group analyzed the requirements of the Zoning Code, the crux of the issue became clear:
The scale of the Hub can only be categorized as a large commercial block building, which is not allowed in Transect Zones T4 or T5.
Why have we invested thousands of hours and thousands of dollars in pursuing this issue? This is the first such project that has been proposed in the Southside, which is entirely zoned T4 and T5. At least half of the Downtown Regulating Plan area covered by the Transect Zones, including downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, is zoned T4 and T5.
Our community cannot afford to allow this project to set a precedent for all future projects that use the Transect Zones.
City Council’s vote of March 22nd only denied the developer’s rezoning request, and is clearly not the end of the project. It will not stop high-occupancy student housing projects in historic Flagstaff. The developer has submitted a second site plan for a high-occupancy student project (591 beds) that they again claim meets the requirements of the Transect Zones T4 and T5. If the city approves their new site plan, we will appeal it to the Board of Adjustment.
Let us be clear: We support appropriate development on this site. The property owner has the right to build on this property, and the site is an appropriate location for a redevelopment project.
However, we believe that the Transect zones provide incentives only for projects that integrate with existing neighborhoods. The T4 Standards, in particular, are written to protect neighborhoods, their form and scale. The T4-N1 Standards begin:
“Zone Intent and Description: The primary intent of this Zone is to reinforce established neighborhoods and to maintain neighborhood stability in walkable areas while allowing such areas to evolve with the integration of small building footprints and medium density building types. Appropriate dwelling units might include bungalow courts, duplexes, and apartment houses which are typically smaller than those found in other zones.”
The code goes on to provide descriptions and images of those allowed building types.
Exclusion of this language from any interpretation of the Zoning Code makes a mockery of these standards.
The second Hub site plan provides for no landscaping, open space, or other community elements. Like the first one, it is huge. The abrupt change from a one- and two-story neighborhood that combines small residential structures, local businesses, and artists’ studios to a 4- and 5-story building comparable to a super Walmart has the potential to destroy the character of the Southside.
In circulating the petition that required a supermajority of Council votes to approve the Hub’s rezoning request, we undertook a responsibility to continue our opposition to serious errors made in interpreting the Transect Zoning code.
To that end we have formed a neighborhood group to work as a communication and action network to preserve Flagstaff’s character. We will post our online location on the Stand Up for the Southside Facebook page.
Signed by Marie Jones, Jeff Maurer, Maury Herman, Karen Kinne-Herman, Albert Lopez, Rose Lopez, Nancy Branham, Frank Branham, Kari Maurer, Caleb Schiff, Mike Darby, Leslie Connell, Susan Jay Thomas, Charlie Silver, Duffie Westheimer, Kathryn Harding and Winnie Hanseth