Why is Banner Health Looking to Short-Change Arizona? A Story of Zoning Chicanery

The world of zoning rules and regulations can be arcane, byzantine, and frankly…boring. That said, there are times when it truly matters, as it can impact quality of life both locally and for the entire state. A couple of recent developments demonstrate exactly how, and how some of our potential business neighbors may not be the best of neighbors.

A recent example of a potential problem came from Axon, a leading maker of body cameras for law enforcement officers.as well as the maker of Taser guns. For a bit of background, proceeds that are received as part of a winning auction bid of land bought from the Arizona State Land Trust is designated to go for the public good in Arizona, typically for education.

Axon put in a winning bid to expand their corporate headquarters under the explicit designation that that parcel would NOT be used for residential purposes, only for industrial and/or corporate purposes. Because of this, they were able to get a significantly lower price for the land than if they wanted to put up apartments or condos. However, a higher price would have yielded more for the beneficiaries: public education in Arizona.

Fast forward to now, when Axon is seeking to rezone a parcel of this same land for residential purposes in order to put up a whopping 2,300 apartments. A “whistleblower” reached out to the Scottsdale Progress after finding out about it and it looks to be DOA, but if not, the result would have been a workaround as a way to save tens of millions of dollars in the purchase price of the state land, as land for residential purposes is sold at a premium.

Put another way, Axon saving tens of millions of dollars would have meant Arizona’s students being short-changed millions of dollars that would have gone to their schools if Axon went about this process in a different way.

So what does Banner Health and its proposal to put an unneeded hospital in North Scottsdale have to do with this? It appears that they are pulling the same end-around on the taxpayer

The land in question that Banner is looking to use to build a hospital was originally purchased from the same Arizona State Land Trust for its minimum bid of $61.85 million by developer Marty DeRito. It was designated for “commercial and industrial uses”. Nowhere in that purchase was an entitlement to build a hospital.

Reports are that DeRito is now selling that land to Banner Health for them to build a hospital. The problem? What we just said: commercial and industrial usage doesn’t include hospitals. That would have almost certainly been a significantly higher price for state land and public education. It seems as though Banner is trying to use the same tactic to shortchange Arizona’s kids. Especially considering their status as a “non-profit”, this behavior is highly questionable. Just look at what HonorHealth paid for state land nearby: $1.75 million per acre versus about $723,000 for Banner. A stunning difference.

We all deserve better than this, and while Axon already has a foothold in Scottsdale, Banner doesn’t. We should collectively make sure that it stays that way, since we deserve better neighbors than that. Additionally, any politician that supports Banner will do so at their own peril, as any challenger can credibly say that they are not just supporting unnecessary growth but chicanery towards Arizona’s children as well.