The future fate of a building that once housed a nursing home on the corner of 111th Avenue and Thunderbird Boulevard has surrounding neighbors curious — and even some angry — as to what sort of business will eventually exist on the property.
Sun City residents living in the area of 111th Avenue and Thunderbird Boulevard vocally expressed their concern and angst about plans for the property during a recent meeting conducted by the property’s owners.
Zoning Attorney Adam Baugh and Trent Taylor, a representative of AR Global, the owner of the property on the southeast corner of 111th Avenue and Thunderbird Boulevard, discussed the future of the site with more than 100 residents Dec. 3. The meeting was held at the now-abandoned site, which once housed a specialty hospital.
They heard from a crowd that at times expressed frustration and anger. But Mr. Baugh promised this would not be the last of the community meetings.
“We are trying to work with neighbors and the community to get the best project possible,” he said. “We’ll have more meetings, a dozen or more if necessary, if we have a viable project.”
Mr. Taylor said AR Global purchased the property in 2013 with an existing lease in place.
Residents’ ire was drawn because a letter announcing the meeting was sent to a small number of residents near the property only a few days before the meeting. The letter also stated the owner had plans to create a behavioral health and treatment facility at the location.
“Most residents did not get notice of this meeting,” resident Chris Tracy stated in an email. “I only learned of it on Next Door!”
Mr. Baugh said notices were sent to all residents living within 300 feet of the property. He circulated a signup sheet at the meeting to gather all addresses for future notifications.
“We will increase the mailing distance if necessary,” he said.
Sharon Bartlett, a resident of Sun City Estates, which is near the property, said some neighbors were happy to see a facility to address behavioral issues was planned for the property. She added, however, that there are a lot of questions as to what type of facility will be built and what type of patients will be served.
“Is it for seniors or all ages? Patients from outside of our community? What type of behavior problems?” she stated in an email. “Personally, I do not feel this type of facility belongs in a senior community.”
The 4.64-acre site has been operated under various owners as a nursing home. The last operator abandoned the Sun City facility and a similar one in Mesa in 2016 without any notice to the owners. The property has remained vacant ever since.
During the Dec. 3 meeting, Mr. Baugh and Mr. Taylor said there are no current plans to locate any specific tenant on the property.
“We are not dealing with anyone yet,” Mr. Taylor said. “Our brokers have reached out to us with interested parties, but we are negotiating with anyone right now.”
Mr. Baugh said numerous behavioral health companies have expressed interest in the property.
“But we wanted to get neighbor input, and that’s why we are having this meeting,” he said.
The majority of concerns from residents at the meeting were about neighborhood security, echoed by Ms. Tracy in an email to the Independent the day before the event.
“What security will be in place? Are patients confined to the facility or permitted to walk the neighborhood?” she asked.
Mr. Baugh said behavioral health and treatment encompasses a variety of things, including mental issues and drug abuse. He said BH and T facilities take patients volauntarily, not by court order, and are typically not lock-down facilities.
Some residents demanded Mr. Baugh and Mr. Taylor contact Recreation Centers of Sun City officials, insisting they needed to start there with their effort. RCSC, however, does not have jurisdiction over private commercial properties in the community, only its own recreation facilities.
Mr. Baugh said they have reached out to Sun City governing entities, first talking to Sun City Home Owners Association officials, who suggested they speak to Condo Owners Association of Sun City officials.
“The COA suggested we conduct a community meeting,” Mr. Baugh said.
Like RCSC, SCHOA and COA have no jurisdiction over private commercial properties in Sun City.
The property is zoned by Maricopa County as R-3, multi-family residential. It was able to be operated under a county special use permit allowing for nursing home use only. Mr. Baugh said a different SUP could be requested, but that would not happen unless there was a specific client committed to the site. An SUP request normally takes six months to go through the county’s process, but this effort could take up to one year, he added.
Residents at the Dec. 3 meeting suggested other uses for the property, including a restaurant, dollar-type store, multi-unit housing to be rented to community visitors or as a Hospice facility. Mr. Taylor said the building layout makes those options unworkable.
“The building is set up in pods surrounding nursing stations,” Mr. Baugh said. “The rooms are standard hospital rooms with a bed and corner restroom.”
He said brokers have reached out to memory care operators, but none have expressed an interest.
“There are three (memory care facilities) under construction nearby and the existing ones are only 79% full,” Mr. Baugh said.
Mr. Taylor said brokers have approached Hospice and other sources about the facility but found no interest.
Despite the hostile attitude of most residents at the Dec. 3 meeting, some thanked Mr. Baugh and Mr. Taylor for conducting the meeting and listening to their concerns.