The Hub won’t be renting by the bed or covering quite so much of its 2.3-acre lot with buildings.
But it’s still an open question whether the five-story, 664-bed apartment complex in Southside will be reduced significantly in size, despite a Flagstaff City Council meeting Tuesday packed with people who want just that.
“This is too big. This structure is so out of scale that you can make the finding (that it’s not appropriate for this area),” said attorney Bill Ring. “This is out of context and there’s no way you can wedge this in … It’s the wrong thing at this location and your code allows you to reach that conclusion.”
Flagstaff Mayor Jerry Nabours announced at Tuesday night’s Council meeting that developers Core Campus had withdrawn its requests for two conditional use permits granting boarding house status and lot coverage of up to 93 percent instead of the 80 percent allowed in the zoning code.
Ring said he met with the attorneys for Core Campus Tuesday morning to discuss an appeal he filed against the two conditional use permits on behalf of Southside Historic Properties, Inc. last week.
Ring said he heard that Core then met with the Flagstaff city attorneys Tuesday afternoon, but he was not invited to the meeting and did not know what took place. Representatives for Core Campus were not available for comment at Tuesday’s Council meeting.
Ring said even though the appeal was not voted on by Council, he hoped the withdrawal of the permits by Core would still have the desired effect of reducing the size of The Hub and requiring more on-site parking for its residents.
Core has said it could increase the number of bedrooms per apartment and remove the retail shops from the project in order to get around the need for more parking, but the public would have to wait to see what Core did, Ring said.
In a 15-minute presentation that drew a standing ovation from the crowd in council chambers, Ring said city staff and Core did not apply the city’s transect zoning regulations properly. Under the city’s transect zoning code, Core and the staff picked a building type that was a much larger than permitted in that transect zone and a building that did not fit in with the character of the existing neighborhood, he said. A building this size would be more appropriate in the downtown Flagstaff area north of the railroad tracks.
Because of that, he said, Council could use the code to reject Core’s request for rezoning under the transect zones because the size and scope of the project did not meet the basic requirements of the transect zoning for the property.
Many of the residents who spoke at the meeting seemed pleased with the news that Core had withdrawn its request for the two conditional use permits. But they still argued that The Hub was too big for the zoning it fell under and the neighborhood it was proposed to be built in.
Maury Herman, who is one of the owners of Southside Historic Properties represented by Ring, said he didn’t usually oppose projects like this, but the unity in the community against it was overwhelming.
“No one in the 30 businesses that I lease has told me that this will be good for their business,” he said.
Marie Jones, who was speaking on behalf of 12 of her neighbors, also argued that The Hub did not meet the requirements of the city’s transect zoning, which she said was designed to protect the city’s historic areas by encouraging developers to create projects that fit in with the existing character of the neighborhood.
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The city staff report for The Hub fails to address this problem or tried to mitigate the problem by saying that the project would be the first of its kind in the area, she said.
“We see this project and we know it’s wrong and we wonder how did it get this far,” she said. “This project is not eligible for the transect zoning benefits.”
Jones asked Council to reject the rezoning request for The Hub and dismiss the staff report as inadequate. She said she understood that Core could then build the project without public input under the traditional zoning that was on the property and that project might be bigger and might require more parking. But a vote to approve Core’s current rezoning request would ruin the transect code and all it stood for, she said.
“It would invite future development to ignore the code and the Regional Plan,” Jones said.
A number of other residents also spoke out on the threat they felt The Hub posed to the history and character of the neighborhood.
Dawn Tucker, who is working with Core to move and renovate a small white house that currently sits in the footprint of the proposed apartment complex, asked Council to work with Core to create a project that would better fit in with the neighborhood.
Tucker said she practically grew up in the little white house where her babysitter lived.
“It’s true that what Core is proposing has worked in many other places, but the scale and size of the project does not honor the neighborhood and its history,” she said.
Emery Ortiz Valasco said her 94-year-old grandfather still lived in the home he built with his own hands in the Southside.
“I strongly believe that The Hub does not belong in our backyard. I’m a graduate of (Northern Arizona University). I’ve lived on campus and in apartments,” she said. “I promise I will do all that I can to prevent The Hub from being built here. If The Hub is built here, my family and friends will be plagued by traffic and parking and by students who have no connection to the community.”
Some residents who spoke at the meeting brought up concerns about shortage of parking and the terrible traffic congestion in the neighborhood that would be exacerbated by the addition of 664 students, even if not all of the students brought their cars.
Julia Olguin, who owns a yoga studio in the Southside, said that some of her current customers arrive 10 minutes before class and drive around looking for a parking spot. They have to leave and skip class because they can’t find one. The Hub would only make the situation worse.
“How many businesses will survive this situation?” she asked.
Nabours cut off further public comment for the night at around 9 p.m. before continuing the discussion to Council’s March 1 meeting.