Community History Threatened By Development

Scottsdale? No, GILBERT. Many times the issues in neighboring communities mirror or even foreshadow our own. This article by Parker Leavitt appeared in the ‘big’ Arizona Republic today, and if you didn’t see “Gilbert” in the subhead, you might mistake this for a discussion about Scottsdale.

Council to weigh rural preservation

Residents fear Gilbert’s history is threatened by development

By Parker Leavitt  The Republic |

The future of south Gilbert’s Santan Character Area, where recent zoning changes have in­creased residential density, will be up for discussion Tuesday when the Town Council meets with the Planning Commission in a special joint session.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the Gilbert Municipal Center, 50 E. Civic Center Drive. The agenda also includes discussion about vacant land targeted for economic development and a review of Planning Commission highlights over the past two years.

Gilbert’s General Plan, which was last approved by vot­ers in 2011, designates about 16 square miles south of Germann Road as the town’s Santan Char­acter Area, a region with a rich agricultural heritage that offi­cials say they want to preserve as development approaches.

The General Plan calls for a mix of rural and suburban neighborhoods in the region, in­cluding “large-lot residential areas” and 1-acre-minimum lots as identified in the town’s land­-use map.

The area still includes large tracts of farmland.

Some south Gilbert residents have protested developers’ re­cent efforts to increase density in the area but have been unsuc­cessful in persuading council members to reject develop­ment proposals.

“Sadly, the voter-approved vision for this part of town is dy­ing, case by case,” Greenfield Acres resident Greg Ostapuk said at a council meeting this month.

“We believe the Town Coun­cil votes have emboldened de­velopers to purchase land des­ignated for low density with the expectation of approval for higher density,” Ostapuk said. “We believe something is wrong with the General Plan if it’s so easily changed.”

Councilman Victor Petersen responded by saying he’s not a big fan of centralized planning.

“I think the free market can instruct us in a lot of ways,” Pe­tersen said. “I think they typi­cally can help us find out what the highest and best use is.”

Since the General Plan up­date was approved with 82 per­cent of the vote in 2011, the Town Council has approved 17 amend­ments to accommodate changes in land uses or density. The council vote has been unani­mous in every instance but one.

Over the past two years, the council has approved six Gener­al Plan amendments south of Germann Road, four of which resulted in increased residen­tial density.

One amendment reduced the number of homes allowed, while another shifted the type of commercial development from office to retail.

The most recent General Plan amendment, approved by the council on June6, allows Toll Brothers to build 114 homes on a 59-acre parcel near Riggs Road and Adora Boulevard.

Under the previous land-use designation, the company would have been limited to about 60 homes.

Other south Gilbert zoning cases approved by the council include:

  • The council on June 6 vot­ed to decrease the density of the Bridges neighborhood near Hi­gley and Queen Creek roads. The community was slated for 3.5 to five homes per acre, but the range was lowered to two to 3.5 units.
  • In March, the council amended the General Plan to convert land designated as “business park” near Gilbert and Germann roads to “general commercial,” a move that al­lows the developer to extend an existing shopping center.
  • The council last November increased the density of a par­cel near Greenfield and Chan­dler Heights roads to allow for more homes to be built on the site. Town planners felt the pro­posal was an improvement over previous plans because it in­cluded better street access, three common areas and a mul­ti-use trail.
  • Last October, the council voted to amend the General Plan in support of nearly 300 homes in the Copper Leaf sub­division surrounding Central Christian Church near Lindsay and Germann roads. The zoning change allowed for smaller lots in part of the community, but the overall density of the subdi­vision remained unchanged, planners said.
  • In May 2012, the council in­creased the density of a resi­dential infill parcel near Higley and Riggs roads despite signifi­cant opposition from neighbors.

“We believe the Town Council votes have emboldened developers to purchase land designated for low density with the expectation of approval for higher density.”

–GREG OSTAPUK , Greenfield Acres resident

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1 Comment

  1. “I think the free market can instruct us in a lot of ways,” Pe­tersen said. “I think they typi­cally can help us find out what the highest and best use is.”

    “Free market” is the opposite of a “General Plan.” Whether or not Councilman Petersen approves of the latter, it’s required by state law–for very good reasons.

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