Queen Creek is one step closer to having a hospital in its town boundaries.
The Town Council approved annexing a parcel of land at the northwest corner of Ganzel and Combs roads Wednesday night, an area between the town's current boundaries and the future Banner Ironwood Medical Center campus in unincorporated Pinal County.
Since state law requires annexed pieces of land to be directly next to city boundaries, incorporating that block was a necessary move before Queen Creek could ultimately draw the hospital's land into town limits.
The parcel annexed Wednesday is the site of a future 900,000-square-foot power center project by Vestar Development Co., said Wayne Balmer, town planning manager.
Current plans are for the center to open in 2012, although actual construction will depend on when the economy picks up, Balmer said.
That center is projected to eventually bring $2 million a year in tax revenue to Queen Creek, said Patrick Flynn, assistant town manager.
As part of the annexation agreement, Vestar is fronting about $7.3 million for traffic signals, roadwork and other improvements, Flynn said. The town will pay that off through a portion of the center's tax revenue over about 10 years.
Meanwhile, Banner is still working with Pinal County on improvements to the property that will reduce impact fees associated with construction of the facility's first phase, which is expected to open in 2009, said hospital spokeswoman Susan Gordon.
Since the hospital is still in annexation talks with Queen Creek, Wednesday's vote was a good step, Gordon said.
Having the hospital in town limits instead of right next door in unincorporated Pinal County would help Queen Creek sell itself as a growing community, Flynn said.
"It's just something that raises our bar in terms of a town ... When national outfits look at you, they look at your boundaries and what's in your town boundaries," Flynn said. "They're looking for a well-balanced community, somewhere you can live work and play."
The benefit on the hospital's side comes from having access to emergency services, like the police and fire department, Gordon said.
There's also the issue of impact fees for hospital support services. Fees for things like medical office complexes are lower in Queen Creek than they are in unincorporated Pinal County, said county spokeswoman Heather Murphy.
Banner still has to pay the county impact fees for the hospital itself, although it's actually running a credit because of road improvement projects it has committed to do as part of the project, Murphy said.
As for the annexation, Pinal County generally stays out of those issues and is just glad to be getting a hospital in an underserved area, Murphy said.
"Who owns the land or who oversees the land the hospital sits on is almost immaterial to having the medical facility," Murphy said. "Where the hospital sits is not as important to us as it's under construction, it's going to be built, and our residents need it."