PHOTO: Andrea Kelly
Mark Bollard, the architect for the proposed Green Valley hospital, explains the layout of the building.

The Pima County Planning and Zoning Commission gave preliminary approval for a hospital on the southern end of Green Valley to be taller than otherwise allowed.

The approval still must be reiterated by the Pima County Board of Supervisors, but it would allow the hospital developer to build a six-building campus, with buildings as tall as 34 feet, instead of the maximum 30 feet allowed by zoning code.

The approval, if finalized, would also allow the developer to add an architectural feature up to 50 feet tall on one of the buildings.

The project has drawn mixed reactions. Green Valley residents are overwhelmingly supportive of a hospital in their area, because currently their closest hospital is in Tucson.

“I’ve been working in the Green Valley area for 25 years now, and all I’ve been hearing over and over and over is ‘we need a hospital,’” said Frank Thomson, a representative of the developer.

But residents are concerned about the impact of the development, which is about three-quarters of a mile north of the historic Canoa Ranch.

One of them is Joe Misinski, who asked the Pima County Planning and Zoning Commission Wednesday to delay making a decision on the additional height request.

“I look out over the ancient and sacred ground of the Hohokam as my backyard, and now I’ll be looking at a mass of concrete and glass the size of a Walmart, hundreds of lit parking spaces, 24-hours-a-day deliveries of services, traffic from patients, families, visitors, the noise of a helicopter," he said.

The Green Valley Community Coordinating Council supports the hospital. Its planning and architecture committee reviewed the hospital’s plans.

“The committee felt that this would be a minimal increase over what’s allowed and that this would not be an intrusion to the existing properties," said Bill O'Malley, who sits on the GVCCC's planning and architecture committee. “Overall the committee felt that a hospital is needed in Green Valley and this location is one of the few open spaces left that can accommodate a facility of this size, and that the impacts on the adjoining properties will be minimized.”

The developer agreed to measure existing buildings near the site, including a water tower and an electric company substation, for comparison to the proposed hospital height, he said.

Residents aren’t the only neighbors concerned with the potential impacts of the hospital. The Whipple Observatory has concerns about the effect of more lighting on the astronomy industry.

A hospital's light use is different from a commercial development, said Dan Brocious, who works for the observatory.

The Pima County Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the additional height request. The approval allows the hospital development to move forward, but Thomson said he’s still seeking input from neighbors, including at a meeting in Green Valley today.

“I think we can work with any possible mitigation that we can do to minimize the impacts and we’ll certainly talk about that as we go through the planning and design process,” he said.

Development Services officials say the board is scheduled to consider the request Dec. 18.