By TOM SCANLON
CAVE CREEK – All that construction on Carefree Highway, just west of Cave Creek Road?
You’ve probably heard a Sprouts Farmers Market is sprouting up there. But did you know a “micro-hospital” is being seeded?
Last week, Cave Creek Town Council made a step towards the town getting its first – albeit small – hospital. Council unanimously approved a “hospital zone change request,” amending the underlying zoning of a 4-acre property on Carefree Highway (parcels 211-46-034B and 211-46-050B) from a Desert Rural Residential Zone to a General Commercial Zone.
The hospital zone request moved to council after the planning commission approved it (4-1) on June 20.The next step in the process is a review of the site plan, scheduled to be presented to town council in September.
If all goes well, the Abrazo hospital with an emergency room would open in the Spring of 2021.
Some are saying they can hardly wait.
During public comment, Martha Arnold was rapturous about the idea of a little hospital in Cave Creek.
“When I arrived in Cave Creek, there was no ambulance service,” she said. “If a situation occurred, the deputy would put you in his car and take you on a two-lane road with many dips to John C. Lincoln.”
The long-term Cave Creeker added that, in the 1970s, there was a volunteer ambulance service.
“Now we have the opportunity to have our own emergency hospital,” Arnold said. “How many lives will that save? I’m grateful to Abrazzo for looking north.”
Technically, the applicant is a non-health care entity: United Real Estate Holdings, a commercial construction outfit which would build the hospital. At the planning commission meeting, attorneys for the real estate company confirmed the project was for an Abrazo Community Health hospital. (Abrazo has hospitals in Scottsdale, Mesa, Arrowhead and central Phoenix).
In a presentation to the planning commission, the applicant stated the closest emergency room to Cave Creek is HonorHealth “a 22-minute drive” at Carefree Highway and I-17. The next-closest are HonorHealth in north Scottsdale and Mayo Clinic Emergency Room
The presentation also estimated the hospital would pay around $1 million annually in taxes to Cave Creek (sales tax on medical supplies).
The proposed hospital building would be about 35,000 square feet, with a maximum height of 25 feet. A patient drop-off area would be facing 53rd Street.
While there was no strong opposition at the council meeting, some expressed traffic-related reservations at the planning commission meeting.
Howard Zikes, who lives in the area, stated he was opposed to “all the development that’s rolling over us … It should stay residential.”
Julie Goldammer also had concerns and asked for a traffic study.
Bill Gilchrist said he and “all but two” of his 52nd Street neighbors signed a petition “to limit short-cutting traffic.”
Planning commissioner Tom Davenport reflected this in his comments: “The sense is we just keep putting more and more things in this area without adequately looking at the traffic picture.”
Davenport was the lone planning commissioner to vote against the rezoning. He asked for the definition of “micro hospital.”
Bob Voris, chairman of the planning commission, answered that this will come on the site plan.
Though there are more steps in a long approval process, many are optimistic that the town will finally have a hospital.
“Looks like we’re going to get one of those here,” said Mayor Ernie Bunch, “and I’m really excited.”
In an email, David Smith of the council said he is in favor of the hospital “because it will provide a health and safety resource that is much closer to Town residents than presently available.
Other medical facilities are a minimum of 20 minutes additional travel.
“For cardiac events or stroke, every additional minute of travel time increases the likelihood of a negative outcome. While major procedures probably will be done at a tertiary facility, quick patient stabilization can certainly save lives.” And, Smith added, minor injuries will be able to treated; “this facility should be much more convenient.”
In another email, Thomas McGuire of the council acknowledged “Nearby citizens have expressed concern about increased traffic, which they have already seen due to the congestion at the Cave Creek Road-Carefree Highway intersection.
He added, “We are exploring ways to mitigate that problem.”