By Cecilia Chan, GSN Managing Editor
Ginger Rowley recalled buying a house in 1995 that backed up to land zoned commercial.
The lot was later rezoned for multifamily units – and that is when the nightmare began, according to Rowley.
“I had noise all night along,” she said, adding she also smelled cigarette and marijuana smoke from the apartment dwellers.
She finally sold her house in 2004 and moved to the Paseo Trail neighborhood in Chandler.
“I live a half mile from the airport,” she said. “The noise never bothers us.”
But a 356-unit apartment complex of two- and three-story buildings, proposed north of her neighborhood will, Rowley and other Chandler residents told Gilbert Town Council Sept. 6.
Nevertheless, Gilbert Town Council unanimously approved a rezoning for the complex – leaving Chandler residents unhappy despite concessions made by the developer in an attempt to ease their concerns.
The Town Council rezoned 19.6 acres at Germann Road and Mustang Drive from business park to multifamily, making way for a project that Chandler residents asserted would drive down their property values and bring in more cars and more children, which would impact already crowded schools.
“Just because you are Chandler residents doesn’t mean we don’t listen,” Vice Mayor Brigette Peterson told them.
Peterson, who previously met with residents to discuss their concerns, said because they got involved, the Liv at Gilbert Crossroads project is now a better one.
With that, she threw her support to the rezoning.
Ed Bull, a land-use and zoning attorney representing the parcel’s owner Rockefeller Group, told the council the 19.6-acre site is not viable for commercial development because it is too deep, too big and lacks good visibility from Germann Road. Rockefeller has tried since 2009 to attract business park developers to the site without success.
Bull added the rezoning got the backing of the town’s planning staff and Planning Commission. Gilbert Chamber of Commerce also sent a letter of support.
Bull said developer IPA Holding has modified the project to address residents’ concerns.
IPA Holding moved it farther away from the south property line, where the Chandler homeowners live. It put in a wider buffer between the project and single-family homes and positioned the three-story buildings along the south portion so that outdoor balconies and patios don’t face the homes.
The nearest three-story buildings will be located approximately 130 feet north of the single-family residences’ property lines.
Also, carriage units were relocated away from the southern property line and one-story garages will be the only buildings at the southernmost portion of the site.
Construction on the apartments is expected to begin in the second quarter of next year and take 19 months to complete, according to a staff report.
The 31 apartment buildings will have studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units. Two-story loft units will be located along the north and west perimeters.
A couple of residents who live at one of the developer’s completed projects, Liv Northgate apartments on Recker Road in Gilbert, extolled their homes as a development with a resort-like feel.
Chandler resident Deb Ruiz, however, said the rezoning would result in significant traffic, not only on Germann Road, but on Gilbert Road and Ryan Road, a collector street that runs into Roadrunner Park.
“These areas already experience significant congestion,” she said. “We fear the proper infrastructure is not in place to support this project at this time. I feel to pass this at this point in time would be irresponsible.”
Councilman Jared Taylor, who is president and CEO of Heritage Academy, founded by his father, and sits on the Arizona State Board of Education, used his expertise to address complaints that children from the apartments would burden nearby schools.
The project would yield about 70 to 90 students, and when they are dispersed among the different grade levels in schools within a 10-mile radius, the impact is one to three new students per class, which he called manageable.
“At the end of the day, schools want students,” he said.
Mayor Jenn Daniels said she has spoken to Chandler Unified School Districts officials, who indicated they did not have an issue with the project.
Council members also recognized the need for multifamily housing in the area to accommodate employees that will result from existing and planned commercial development along Loop 202 from Gilbert Road to Val Vista Drive.