Flagstaff residents may finally get a discussion with city officials on the multiple housing projects geared toward college students that are being proposed for various locations around town.
During Tuesday’s Council meeting, Vice Mayor Coral Evans asked for a formal discussion on the matter that would include members of the public as well as developers, officials from Northern Arizona University and students.
“We need to have a conversation as a community about this. I think it’s long past due,” she said. “Rather than waiting for the community to bring issues like this before us, I think we should have a discussion and provide a framework for where these projects should be located.”
Off-campus housing for students has become an issue after Landmark Properties announced plans to build The Standard, a 191-unit dormitory-style apartment complex that would house around 650 students near the intersection of Route 66 and Blackbird Roost.
Landmark has no contract with NAU to house students. The project is a private enterprise. It has not been approved by the city yet.
If approved, the project would displace 56 families who live in the Arrowhead Village trailer park on Blackbird Roost.
Evans suggested a specific zoning category for dormitory-style housing complexes might be one solution. She said she wasn’t looking at any one project but at the issue of student housing as a whole.
Evans request got a burst of applause from a small group of students and residents from the Plaza Vieja neighborhood, which includes Arrowhead Village. The residents and students had pleaded with Council at the beginning of the meeting to put the issue on a future agenda.
Mayor Jerry Nabours recommended Council hold a roundtable discussion instead of a workshop or meeting.
Barotz and Evans immediately shot down the idea.
Barotz said she was uncomfortable with a roundtable discussion because those types of meetings had a tendency to exclude people. She favored having people come to the podium to voice their opinions and answer questions during a regular council meeting or workshop. Evans agreed.
Councilmember Karla Brewster disagreed. She said past roundtable discussions in which she has participated have been very fruitful.
Nabours agreed with her.
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“It’s hard to have a discussion at the podium,” he said.
Brewster also asked how the city could legally single out housing geared toward students from other multifamily housing units.
One of the city attorneys suggested that that could be part of the discussion.
Councilmember Celia Barotz pointed out that zoning was about the use of property. The city could create an amendment to the zoning ordinance that governed the placement of dormitory-style apartments. These types of development rent by the bedroom and residents share a kitchen and living room.
Barotz also pointed out that anything Council decided to do wouldn’t affect any current projects in the pipeline, such as The Standard.
Councilmember Mark Woodson, whose engineering firm is involved in The Standard project, said he welcomed the idea of a discussion on housing for students.
“But I have some questions,” he said.
Woodson said he was shocked to find out that the recent review of the city’s regional plan and zoning ordinance did not include a discussion on housing for students
“There had to be a break-out discussion on this,” he said.
He asked staff to research the minutes from the regional plan committee for any hints of such a discussion. He also asked staff if there was anything in the current zoning ordinance or regional plan that could help control the situation now ahead of potentially amending the zoning ordinance or regional plan.
Councilmember Scott Overton asked staff to create a map or list of areas in the city that already had zoning that could accommodate dormitory-style apartments.
Council approved directing staff to research the situation further and then bring it back as a work session topic.
Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa can be reached at email@example.com or 556-2253.