County Oks

Maricopa County supervisors approved a rezoning of this site despite the fact that Gilbert town staff and some residents opposed the move. (Maricopa County)

Lyle and Glenna Shappell saw the land around their property near Germann Road and Silverado Street over the years develop into industrial and business park uses, and they’ve now decided to join in.

The couple’s request to rezone their 4.12-acre site from rural to commercial was unanimously granted by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors despite objections from town planners.

“The town’s General Plan identifies this site as appropriate for office in the future given its mid-block location and access challenges,” said Kyle Mieras, Gilbert Development Services director at the supervisors’ June 22 meeting. “Additionally, many of the land uses allowed in the county’s C-2 zoning district are not compatible with the town’s General Plan and surrounding land uses.”

Mieras explained that because the site will need town utilities to develop commercially, it would be more appropriate to rezone it to a town classification.

The applicant for the owners, Upfront Planning & Entitlements, has indicated that the site, which relies on wells and onsite septic system, will want to connect to town utilities when it develops and would require annexation into Gilbert.

“Since billboards are not allowed within the Town of Gilbert, the Town is very concerned about the potential for billboards being constructed on this site if rezoned to a county commercial designation,” Mieras said.

He asked the supervisors to deny the rezone or at least prohibit billboards on the site.

Supervisor Jack Sellers, whose District 1 includes Gilbert, said he understood the concerns about billboards but noted, “The request before us is not just about a billboard. “The request is to rezone this parcel from rural zoning to commercial.”

He said the county parcels north of Germann are currently zoned commercial and several adjacent parcels in Gilbert’s jurisdiction are zoned light industrial.

“Commercial zoning for this parcel makes sense,” Sellers said. ‘I also understand that we have received no public opposition to this zone change and the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously voted to approve the zoning request.”

Although the supervisors didn’t prohibit billboards, the approved overlay does ban businesses, including adult-oriented facilities, bars, drive-thru restaurants, retail gas sales, liquor stores, theaters, medical marijuana dispensaries, theaters, self-storage buildings and recreation centers with pool halls or billiards.

According to the county, the applicant mailed notifications to property owners within 300 feet of the Shappell property and held a virtual neighborhood meeting in February that no one attended.

County planners also pointed out that Gilbert Councilmen Scott Anderson and Scott September each emailed their support for the Shappell Family Project’s rezone.

“I believe C2 is an appropriate use for this site,” September wrote. “There have been significant concerns raised by residents in this area regarding the amount of industrial projects recently sited. This use will allow for more services restaurants and other types of businesses that our residents can use.”

Town Senior Planner Keith Newman, however, told the county Gilbert staff did not support “a lot of the retail sales, restaurants, and service uses permitted in the County C-2 zoning district” as those uses are designed for major street intersections, which does not fit the description of the 4.12 acres.

Rather, under Gilbert’s General Office land classification, uses could include large-scale, single or multi-story, medical, professional, general or service-type office and light-industrial uses, he said.

The Shappells, who have two homes on the site, have indicated no immediate plans to develop the land commercially or seek annexation to Gilbert.

But development on the site will occur as soon as the couple decides to sell the property and no longer live onsite, according to the applicant.

Edward Dantes, who lives in Layton Lakes in Gilbert voiced concern with the supervisors’ decision “without our residents knowing what’s on the horizon.”

“While it’s always nice to see new businesses come into Gilbert, I always thought we don’t allow billboards,” he said in an email.  “They look trashy and we don’t want our town looking like Phoenix.”