By wayne schutsky GSN Managing Editor

The Gilbert Town Council recently approved the final payment related to a development deal signed with Santan Motorplex 15 years ago.

In retrospect, town officials look at the deal as an example of the way incentives and appropriate zoning can work together to promote employment growth.

The development at Loop 202 and Val Vista Drive is now home to nine active car dealerships and is set to undergo an expansion.

The Town signed a development deal with Santan Motorplex in 2003 that included a rebate of up to 50 percent of the sales tax generated by dealerships operating within the development with total rebates not to exceed $60 million.

The deal also provided for a cap of $7 million per major dealership and $3 million per non-major dealership.

The deal was initially set to end in December 2017 but delays in the completion of town-funded infrastructure improvements early in the project pushed the date back to include all sales made through May 15 of this year.

The change in the end date caused a $2 million increase in the reimbursement amount.

On June 21, the Town Council approved a transfer from the General Fund to cover that increase so that town staff could make the final payment associated with the agreement.

With the final payment scheduled, Gilbert Economic Development Director Dan Henderson said the development agreement worked out well for the town.

“I think it has been a great deal,” he said. “As we look at the build out of the autoplex, I think the deal as it was intended really helped the town build the necessary infrastructure to attract significant automotive (users) and it has been very successful.”

Henderson credits the town’s long-term commitment to the area as an employment corridor and its investment in infrastructure for spurring further growth in the area.

“Dating as far back as 1986, the Town looked at land in that area and intended it for commercial and employment uses,” he said. “In this case, the general plan got the area right.”

Henderson added that road improvements along Lindsay Road, including a planned freeway interchange, will promote further commercial growth in the area. He said there are already plans for new hotels in the design review process.

Applicants are also seeking to expand the footprint of the Santan Motorplex. Their plans took a step forward in June when the Town Council approved a minor zoning amendment to rezone over 35 acres of land at Spectrum Way and Pecos Road from a business park to general commercial.

The site is currently a collection of old agricultural properties. In a memo to the Town Council, town staff wrote that the proposed development has led to increased interest in other vacant properties in the area and the zoning change would open up those properties for more varied commercial uses.

“If anything paved the way (for this), it was the infrastructure,” Henderson said. “That is where I think Council got the vision right. They brought infrastructure like Loop 202 to the area. That infrastructure and this development agreement is where the Council got it right.”