Chandler council approves Banner Health hospital
The Chandler City Council unanimously approved the city’s first Banner Health hospital just south of Loop 202 on Thursday despite protests from neighbors who fear the development will lead to an increase in traffic and noise.
Banner Health already operates a primary-care center on the edge of the 18-acre site on the corners of Alma School and Willis roads. The non-profit health care system plans to expand into a 245,000 squarefoot hospital and future phases could increase the size of the medical campus by another 82,800 square feet.
Construction of the $155 million project’s first phase is expected to begin this month and be completed in November 2020.
The council’s decision was met with disbelief from the dozens of residents opposed to the project who attended the meeting, wearing stickers that said, “Save our neighborhood.”
Nancy Ryan, who helped spearhead the opposition effort, urged the council to reconsider its decision during the call to the public, the meeting portion set aside to let residents address the council on any topic.
But the resounding sentiment shared by the council was that a hospital would bring not only jobs to the city, but also provide more health care options for residents.
Economic Development Director Micah Miranda said the hospital will employ more than 650 people once it’s built out, which represents payroll benefits of $340 million over 10 years.
Banner Health Facilities Services Vice President Kip Edwards said 66 percent of patients drive more than 10 miles to receive health care and 22 percent of inpatients leave the southeast Valley to receive care. The new hospital would provide a closer option for residents, he said.
Resident Oscar Salazar, who spoke in favor of the project, said going to an out-of-network hospital is costly. He said he is one of the estimated 80,000 southeast Valley residents who are part of Banner’s insurance network who will benefit from the new facility.
William Bruno, another Chandler resident in Banner’s insurance network, said he doesn’t want to drive to Mesa to be seen at a Banner hospital.
“I want a Banner facility in this community,” he told the council.
Not everyone welcomed the project. Resident Eric Lee, one of five residents who spoke against the project, told the council that not only is the hospital’s size much larger than what Banner proposed in 2012 when the land was rezoned for medical offices, the residents don’t believe another hospital is needed in the area. Dignity Health’s Chandler Regional Medical Center is less than 2 miles away.
Resident John Wilson said a hospital of that size would lead to increased traffic in the already congested area. He said data from the Chandler Police Department show there have been 44 reported accidents near the intersections of Loop 202 and Alma School Road and Alma School and Willis roads in the first nine months of 2018.
As part of the project, Banner will expand Alma School Road from two to three lanes from Loop 202 to Maplewood Street and add a left-turn light at the Alma School and Willis roads intersection.
Vice Mayor Rene Lopez said the improvements would help alleviate some of the traffic and the council is committed to further studying ways to improve road access in the area.
Residents were also concerned that Banner would continue expanding the site without community input and would open a behavioral health or substance abuse center at the site.
Edwards said there isn’t room for further expansion once the second phase is completed, and the council would have to approve any modifications to the development plan.
Edwards also agreed Thursday to add a stipulation to the development agreement that would prohibit Banner from opening a licensed behavioral health or substance abuse facility at the site. He said Banner already operates specialized behavioral health and substance abuse centers at other hospitals, and the Chandler location would not be appropriate for such use.
Nevertheless, residents weren’t satisfied with the concessions.
They asked that the city address traffic issues first, that Banner build the medical offices it had committed to build in 2012, and that the hospital be built according to 2012 plans if it is “absolutely needed.” They also asked that Banner not include a helipad in the plans.