After the site failed to attract commercial interest, the Gilbert Town Council approved a Scottsdale real estate group’s request to rezone part of 125 acres at the northeast corner of Warner and Recker roads for homes.
The Council unanimously voted Oct. 17, to make a major General Plan amendment and rezone the land – which was originally slated for employment purposes – owned by Scottsdale Investment Management.
The parcel previously allocated 28.4 acres for a business park, 87.5 for light industrial and 8.9 for community commercial. None of it was zoned residential.
Now, 30.6 acres of land has been set aside for light industrial along Warner Road and the remainder 94.2 for residential.
“[I] believe this is a good compromise from both sides and a great example of a win-win for everybody,” said Vice Mayor Eddie Cook.
The residential portion will house 484 units, including 171 townhomes, according to Scottsdale Investment Management Partner Tim Grant.
Lennar Homes, one of the country’s largest homebuilders headquartered in Gilbert, will be the developer for the site.
“That [the parcel] will now have some prime residential land incorporating Lennar homes and they’re going to build the latest and greatest community out there,” Grant said.
“The homes will be fully Alexa-enabled with wifi,” he continued. “It has really been artfully integrated into the light industrial . . . so now you’ve got a plan that the market will receive well.”
Lennar originally requested 560 homes, but a Town Council majority rejected the major General Plan amendment that would have allowed for the housing, citing concerns over letting go of land that could potentially provide jobs for Gilbert.
Gilbert Planning Division Manager Eva Cutro told the Gilbert Sun News that the new amendment will now help fulfill the town’s economic development strategies.
“We don’t want to be just a bedroom community,” she said.
“We want a mix of residential, retail and commercial so that people can work and play in Gilber,.” Daniels added.
The 125-acre plot, which sat dormant for nearly a decade, was originally zoned for residential when Trend Homes owned it.
In 2007, Rockefeller Group purchased the site and rezoned most of the property to light industrial in 2009.
A Rockefeller representative previously said the company was unsuccessful in developing the site in the 10 years it owned it and attested it was a mistake to have rezoned from residential.
The Scottsdale firm purchased the land in 2017 and after finding no commercial interest for the site, approached the town last year to build residential on it instead.
Lennar Homes was in escrow for the land.
Although the planning commission unanimously supported the applicant’s request, it was later shot down by the council.
Council members expressed concern over not wanting to lose an employment site.
But in late December, the council rescinded its rejection and allowed for a redo of the proposal.
Some requested deviations included 100 percent lot coverage for the townhomes, leaving them with no yard and an apartment-like feel.
During a previous public hearing, real estate attorney Adam Baugh explained that he believes the residential zoning makes sense for the site, considering it is surrounded by residents on three sides and has no direct freeway access or visibility.
He added that the Scottsdale group met with experts and found that the best shot for industrial development on the land would be farther west along Warner Road given its arterial frontage and closer proximity to the Power Road Growth Area.
Cook and Councilman Jared Taylor spoke in favor of the change, noting the benefit of flexibility and the compromise between the town and the Scottsdale group.
“Normally in the past, the mayor and I have aligned quite a bit when we see properties of this magnitude that have been designated for commercial, light industrial and so forth,” said Cook.
“We tend to want to maintain and keep those properties as is, in anticipation of possible revenue generation from commercial, light industrial or even retail,” he added.
Grant applauded the decision.
“I think the plan turned out great and I think it shows the forward-looking nature that Mayor Jenn Daniels has for the community,” he said, adding:
“She was helpful in making sure the plan was sensitive to the area and consistent with the area, but yet had employment opportunities.”