While there are still hurdles to the project, plans for a hospital in the Green Valley area moved forward today with a thumbs-up from county supervisors.

The supervisors unanimously approved zoning variances for a first-ever Green Valley area hospital on 22 acres east of Interstate 19 and north of Canoa Ranch Drive.

A Scottsdale developer is planning to build a 32-bed hospital along with Tucson Medical Center. TMC signed a "memo of understanding" to proceed with McDowell Enterprises in doing the project, but has not reached any definitive agreement, spokeswoman Julia Strange said today.

The area had already been zoned for commercial use, but developers needed county approval for the expanded size and height of the building, which exceed current regulations.

Residents of The Springs at Santa Rita, just northeast of the site had previously voiced concerns about the project and several, including the president of the homeowner's association, said they opposed the location.

Though several residents turned out to a county planning meeting last month to express those concerns, only two turned up today. Homeowners association president Sandie Stone told the supervisors she wants to make sure the developers work with the community as the project proceeds.

Voices of support for the two-story hospital far outweighed opponents today. 

Astronomers from the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory on nearby Mount Hopkins had voiced concerns about light coming from the hospital, but the developers say they will be well within the county's dark skies ordinance, which is one of the strictest in the country.

The hospital would serve some 50,000 people who live in Green Valley, home to many retirees, and the rapidly growing Sahuarita area. The area does not currently have a hospital or emergency room, and residents must travel at least 30 minutes by car to get to an ER.

The hospital plans include a rehabilitation center, medical offices, cardiac catheterization lab, four operating rooms, on-site radiological imaging labs, 26 inpatient private rooms, a six-bed intensive-care unit, a helipad, and the potential to expand from 32 beds to 50. Officials have said they will build with the ability to expand the hospital as the community grows.

The hospital is tentatively planned to open in 2014.