After numerous failed attempts at commercial projects on 16 acres along Gilbert Road near Ash Street, a developer is proposing a 165-unit residential community instead.
Gilbert Town Council is expected, on March 24, to consider requests for a minor general plan amendment and rezone paving the way for The Bungalows on Ash proposed directly north of a Sam’s Club.
The Planning Commission, which discussed the project in detail in a December study session, last week recommended council approve the requests.
“We understand there is a general philosophy in the Town of Gilbert we don’t want to remove commercial inventory and change it to residential,” said zoning attorney Sean Lake, representing Cavan Homes at last week’s commission meeting. “But there are some locations in isolated areas staff pointed out, with their recommendation for approval, it might be time.
“This property has had multiple attempts or multiple runs at it over a lengthy period of time. It was planned for commercial and they’ve tried to do commercial for many years and haven’t had success.”
Lake said the surrounding area has been built out for a long time with multi-family and single-family residential and retail.
He added the site faced a number of challenges, including its location away from a major arterial intersection made it an unlikely high customer draw and a curve in the road limiting its access. The land has sat vacant for 30 years.
Lake said an analysis of current services offered in the area identified “42 retail-restaurant locations” and 85 retail and service locations on Gilbert Road between Guadalupe and Baseline roads.
“Not only are there existing services provided both with restaurants and retail as well as services but there also are vacancies,” Lake said. “We’ve identified vacancies in all these areas so there is opportunity for people to come in and locate there (with) their goods.”
Lake said the proposed development would provide more customers for the existing businesses.
The vacant parcel was originally zoned in the late 1980s, as part of a larger 31-acre shopping and medical center but was rezoned a few years later, according to a staff report.
The master plan contained the Sam’s Club parcel as Phase 1 and The Bungalows site was originally intended for Phase 2 with a large-anchor tenant and supporting restaurant and retail along the street.
In the early 1990s, five or six different developments were approved for those supporting industries, including an IHOP, Kyoto Bowl and a few others but because there was no main-anchor tenant, those were never built, according to planner Josh Rogers.
Bungalows on Ash is proposed as a gated multi-family community with a mix of one-, two-, and three-bedroom attached and detached units intended to feel like single-family living.
Lake called the project a “hybrid.”
“It’s not a true single-family detached product but it’s not a traditional multi-family product where you have a three-story apartment complex,” he said.
The proposal is to rent all the units, each having a private backyard.
The units would appeal to retirees and young professionals and couples who do not want to own a home but could still enjoy the benefits of renting and have a backyard, Lake said.
“For those of us with dogs, it’s a big deal,” Lake said. “I don’t want to go rent (at) an apartment complex with a little patio outside and but I have no place for my do to go.”
The residential units are designed in a cluster configuration, with typically four to eight units clustered around a commonly connected pedestrian courtyard. Amenities include a clubhouse, a resort-like pool, dog spa and central turf lawn.
Lake said the units would appeal to young professionals and retirees.
The developer has requested a deviation to decrease the internal building separation requirement from 20 feet to 10 feet, as well as a perimeter wall modification from the required 8feet to 6 feet for aesthetic purposes.
The one main entry to the development would be off of Gilbert Road with fire access to the north.
No one from the public spoke on the project at the meeting.
Commissioner David Cavenee called the project a nice transition for the area and appreciated the struggle to bring viable commercial to the site.
“I’m actually really grateful to see this site has come forward with a development staff is happy with,” he said. “As far as I can see, it’s going to be a great infill piece that’s needed.”