The Flagstaff City Council voted not to approve the zoning changes requested by Core Campus, the developers of The Hub.
The council was voting under the rules of super majority, this meant that to pass anything, it had to be approved by at least six council members. The super majority was filed through petition over a week ago by local leaders that opposed the re-zoning amendment. Because of the petition, the zoning change failed to pass despite the vote breaking down four to three in support.
Mayor Jerry Nabours and councilmembers Karla Brewster, Jeff Oravits and Scott Overton voted in favor of the change while vice-mayor Celia Barotz and councilmembers Coral Evans and Eva Putzova voted in opposition.
Nearly 200 people attended the meeting and council heard final presentations from the city staff and Core Campus. The council also heard public comments, most of which were in opposition to The Hub.
Though the vast majority was in support of the outcome of the vote, it did have its detractors. Flagstaff citizen Blake Nabours was one such individual.
“We’re going to end up with a permanent fixture that isn’t the best possible solution. [Those in opposition] are trying to stop the project all together, it’s not possible,” Blake said. “[Core Campus] is willing to build it smaller but we’re going end up with a larger frontage than is necessary because [the opposition are] being sticks in the mud.”
Blake also added that he saw nothing wrong with The Hub in the first place, “It’s in-line with the regional plan, it helps everybody, it helps small business owners, it helps the economy, it helps NAU, it helps everybody,” said Blake. “I don’t see a loser in this situation.”
On the other hand, the majority of the crowd was pleased by the decision and many were optimistic for the future. Among them was Flagstaff citizen Maury Herman who has been following the project for some time.
“We’re not against student housing on the south-side, but it needs to be built according to code.” Herman said, adding that he hopes those who opposed the zoning changes are able to stop construction of The Hub all together.
“They’ve already submitted a new site plan,” Herman said. “If staff proves that site plan then we have ten days to appeal it to the board of adjustments to get a hearing on what this code means.”
Flagstaff citizen Katy Harding was also pleased with the outcome and was also looking to the future.
“We’re happy, we needed supermajority and we won with supermajority,” Harding said. “I think this council is really clearly divided and I’m excited for the elections in November so we can get a new council that better represents the citizens of Flagstaff.”
Flagstaff citizen Jane O’Donnell was not so optimistic.
“Either way it’s going to be an eye sore. It’s not going to be fitting for the neighborhood,” said O’Donnell.
During the presentations by the developer and the city staff, core campus attempted to make one last compromise. They offered to lower the frontage, which are the sections of the building closest to the street, to only three stories tall. The offer did not change tone of the council or public discussion.
Core Campus also presented the building plans they use if the re-zoning amendment failed. The new building will not need approval from the council as it will be constructed under the current transect zoning laws. Other differences include a larger mass, a smaller budget on the developers part and an exterior that was described as “less athletically pleasing.” The new building will also include nine extra parking spaces and around 70 less beds.
As a result of the failed amendment, Core Campus will no longer be providing $575,000 to the city for south-side parking solutions.
For the first time a representative for Northern Arizona University attended the meeting in order answer any questions that the council, or members of the public may have had. Jane Kuhn, vice president of Student Affairs, did not endorse the project but did point out that NAU is in the top one percent of universities when it comes to student housing on campus.
Kuhn also mentioned that the university was exploring options to address the problem of tight parking in the south-side after so many members of the public brought up the issue during council meetings on The Hub.
Lindsay Schube, a lawyer representing Core Campus, said that after this ruling, the developer is ready to build as soon as possible.