When Northern Arizona Healthcare (NAH) sought to move seven miles south to the Fort Tuthill area, they may have expected some pushback but nothing like the avalanche of opposition that forced a public vote that would see more than 70% of Flagstaff voters rejecting the idea no November 7th.
The Flagstaff City Council vote in June to rezone 100 acres for the new hospital was unanimous (Vice Mayor Austin Aslan was absent and did not vote).
The plans had been announced two years prior.
What went wrong? And what additional lessons might now be understood both for the Scottsdale City Council and Banner Health, who like Northern Arizona Healthcare, is facing serious opposition in Scottsdale.
The goodwill in the community wasn’t there. Before and after the vote, opponents insisted there was not enough collaboration with the community as well as a lack of planning. The Planning and Zoning Committee had voted against it.
The opposition group called Flagstaff Community First was able to gather more than 2,600 valid signatures to put the question on the ballot within the 30-day referendum window.
The group’s website had a long list of reasons to vote no such as a giant hospital isn’t needed, increasing healthcare costs, a lack of planning, and the fate of the existing hospital.
Other issues include costs to the city, the carbon footprint caused by construction, and the impact on Fort Tuthill County Park.
Northern Arizona Healthcare just didn’t read the room. Neither did the Flagstaff City Council. The opposition was real. Just like it is in Scottsdale towards a proposed new Banner hospital at the 101 and Hayden. That is a solution in search of a problem.
At several public hearings, the community was telling NAH the plans were simply too grandiose. NAH forged ahead just the same. The hospital learned a valuable lesson. When you hold or attend public hearings, it’s a good idea to listen, whether you’re in Flagstaff or Scottsdale.