BULLHEAD CITY — About 20 residents from Sunridge Estates heard about plans for a five-bedroom home in the 3400 block of Sundial Drive to be used to provide end-of-life hospice care for up 10 patients.
Five residents asked for help from the city during the council’s Aug. 18 meeting. City Manager Toby Cotter offered to meet with people who live near the residence. He brought City Attorney Garn Emery and key employees from the city’s Planning and Zoning Department to Tuesday’s meeting to answer questions.
Two of the three principals in the project also came: Natasha Van Horn and Jessica Ashmore, both of Family Care Home Health and Hospice. One lives in Bullhead City and the other in Mohave Valley.
A third principal, Mohammed Ahmed, is from Texas.
AS A&V Passages, PLLC, bought the home earlier this year from its previous owner.
Van Horn explained that she had looked in a variety of locations before finding the Sundial home.
They were working with city staff to find a location and didn’t buy the home “willy-nilly.”
She found it on Zillow and described the 3,000-square-feet property as “perfect.”
Van Horn said she wanted to bring this type of end-of-life care to the area because there isn’t much of it available in the region. Existing places, such as Sunridge Village, are more expensive.
She also told the group that she was “tired of seeing our vets die alone.”
This use is allowed in the area, zoned as Single Family Limited. The code not only allows a residential care facility such as A & V Passages — which awaits its city business license and state certification as a care home — but also churches, public schools, libraries, home occupations, even fire and police stations.
Residential care facility is among state uses that also must adhere to specific directions under a section of the city’s planning and zoning code, Chapter 17.
There are similar uses allowed in the planning and zoning codes for Kingman and Lake Havasu City. Such uses are linked to the U.S. Fair Housing Act as well, said Johnny Loera, the city’s planning-code enforcement manager.
People at the end of their lives can be considered disabled because they can’t take care of themselves. Discriminating against disabled people is against the Fair Housing Act, he said.
One resident interrupted Loera to say “we know it’s legal.”
“They have the same right to be there as everyone else,” Loera responded.
Cotter explained at that point — and at other at times during the 90-minute meeting — that city staff was adhering to state code that allows this type of activity in a residential area zoned as Single Family Limited.
Some people who live near the home said the lack of notice about the plan for the location was especially upsetting.
Regarding notice of a property owner planning to use their home for such an endeavor, “the code is pretty silent.”
There was an advertisement by the principals informing the public about the articles of organization having been filed with the Arizona Corporation Commission. It appeared in Kingman Daily Miner three times in May.
Though at least one resident said they were concerned the bedrooms were too small for two people in each, Van Horn said the rooms allowed for adequate space under regulations for such a care facility.
Others were unhappy that when they bought their homes years before that no one told them this type of property use was allowed in the neighborhood.
“You guys are just jamming these people down our throats,” one man said to Cotter.
Van Horn said they were planning to complete improvements on the property before inviting neighbors to an informational open house, and that some people have toured the home.
Van Horn said she was still interested in talking to neighbors about things they might be able to do to lessen their impact on the neighborhood.
One man tried to talk about how the hospice might find a more discreet process than having a mortuary van arrive at the residence to pickup decreased residents. He suggested having the van pull into the garage so children wouldn’t have to see it.
Van Horn was amenable to the idea, though she expressed frustration throughout about being interrupted by some of the more vocal residents most interested in the hospice simply not being situated in their neighborhood.
She told the one man that people would be taken out using a gurney. Later, she said she misunderstood what the man was asking.
“It’s not right for our neighborhood,” was said by various residents during the meeting.
There also were numerous comments from people telling the two women to sell the property.
“I won’t sell the property,” Van Horn replied more than once. “What we’re doing is allowed.”
The current plan is to have the two nurses and a third employee park their vehicles in the garage so other vehicles could park in the driveway, she said.
Cotter also encouraged residents to meet with Van Horn and Ashmore to discuss such concerns as parking, visiting hours and the process used to pickup of deceased patients.
The city can regulate such things as parking, noise, trash and rights-of-way “if the state issues the license,” he said.
But, Cotter also said, even in large cities, such as Phoenix, “people have certain rights to their property.”