Panel OKs

The two-story storage facility will be located on nearly 3 acres. (Town of Gilbert)

A planned 75,000-square-foot, two-story storage facility at the southwest corner of Recker and Pecos roads would bring traffic, rats and transients, claim San Tan Ranch residents.

But Planning Commission didn’t buy their argument and voted 5-0 on July 13 to recommend Town Council approval of a minor General Plan amendment and rezone of 2.92 acres for Town Storage.

“This property, this piece of land has sat empty,” Chairman Jan Simon said. “The applicant could come and put a storage facility on it today as a neighborhood commercial zoning that it is.

“I do feel like the main concern that I’ve heard is the traffic concerns and I feel that in this situation, it doesn’t makes sense to me from an argument perspective because I do feel this will be a very low-traffic site.”

Simon acknowledged that people in their backyard now looking at an empty lot would be impacted by a two-story building.

“When we go through the design review there may be things we can do to change that aesthetically or potentially work with the applicant to make sure it is aesthetically pleasing,” Simon said.

Senior Planner Keith Newman explained that the applicant is going for a minor General Plan amendment because the neighborhood commercial land classification caps storage units to 25,000 square feet. A general commercial land use has no such limitation, he said.

He added that staff received emails from six residents opposed to the project, citing concerns with increase traffic congestion, increase in crime, noise and wrong use of the property as it’s across the street from Higley High.

Three San Tan Ranch residents spoke against the project.

Monica Nichols said she was concerned that the storage facility would bring in traffic and rodents.

“Rodents like to be in quiet places and that’s something that we don’t like,” she said.

Megan Cooper said her biggest worry is with traffic and safety.

She said the drop-off and pick-up lines for Legacy Traditional School, north of Higley High get extremely backed up and if the facility is built, parents would be parking there to pick up their kids and all that traffic poses a safety concern for children walking and riding their bicycles in the neighborhood.

Cooper started a petition against the project on Change.org that’s amassed 70 signatures.

“It’s a very school-driven community,” Michelle Osborne said. “It is surrounded by tons of residential areas so that is a very big concern having transient people that are not part of our community living in there, not knowing their criminal history, not knowing if they’re sex offenders.

“I don’t know if that is something that the storage facility will be investigating or asking.”

She also voiced concerns with losing privacy while using her backyard pool “knowing that potentially somebody could be able to see into it” and said the project would drive down the value of her home.

She also said there are already four storage facilities less than a mile radius of her home.

“To put another storage unit is disruptive to the neighborhood, to the community and what Gilbert stands for and we were known as one of the safest cities in the country and I would really like to keep it that way.”

Land-use attorney and applicant Adam Baugh said he understood the residents’ concerns but that storage facilities are probably the lowest traffic-generator of all land uses with about 130 trips a day. Access for the storage facility would be off Recker Road only.

He said most people who use storage facilities generally bring their stuff in and don’t come back until they need to remove it. It’s not a boat or a RV storage, he said.

He said if residents are concerned about traffic because of the nearby schools then they should be worried about the current zoning that exists today because it would allow for uses such as restaurants and day care, which generate more vehicle trips.

He said the facility is fully enclosed and secured with no outside roll-up doors.

“There’re no areas for transients to exist or occur,” Baugh said. “Transient people will not be allowed to live on this property. Residential occupancy is not permitted.

“It is completely monitored and automated. There is virtually zero crime associated with this type of facility and at the end of the day, the use that we are proposing is far less intensive that what is otherwise permitted on the property.”

As for the rat sightings, that’s probably the reflection of the empty field behind the homes, which can be addressed with pest control after the building is constructed, according to Baugh.

He also said loss of privacy for nearby homeowners is not an issue as there would be no exterior windows on the facility.

Town staff noted that few proposals have been pitched for the site over the years because of its awkward location.

The site is isolated and detached from other commercial uses, creating a lack of synergy necessary to sustain most retail uses and many commercial uses with their associated noise, deliveries and activity would not be appropriate being so close to homes, according to staff, which was in support of the project.

“This is a perfect use for this property,” Commissioner William Fay said. “We are not going to get a hobby farm or a million-dollar home and it’s kind of the perfect thing, quiet use to buffer the industrial uses that you got – the SRP power and the water from the school and the rest of the neighborhood.

“It frankly can be there by right right now other than the two-story part so I think this is about as good of a use that we could ask for.”