Developers want to put apartments near the Town’s Municipal Complex and in its Northwest Employment Area, totaling over 300 units.
The Planning Commission in last Wednesday’s study session gave input on the two projects.
Applicant Iplan Consulting is seeking a minor general plan amendment and rezone on 10.97 acres near the southeast corner of Gilbert Road and Civic Center Drive for the 108-unit Avanterra complex. Continental Properties is in the process of buying the land.
Avanterra proposes one-story and two-story standalone units and tri-unit buildings with one, two, three and four bedrooms with single and two-car garages. Amenities would include clubhouse, fitness center, kitchen area, pool, a tot lot and dog park.
“Given the location here, I think it’s very good to bring in more people that can access the amenities and all of the businesses across the street there,” Commissioner Noah Mundt said. “I think it’s a good area of growth.”
That said, Mundt in agreement with staff did not support the applicant’s request to deviate from the required 45 percent for open space down to 41.9 percent.
The applicant explained that each unit would have a private backyard, which benefits renters more rather than adding another small park.
That didn’t fly for Mundt, who said developers should be accountable for at least meeting the town’s minimal standards.
Although the developer is providing each unit with a private yard that is more than required by code, the project would be better served with landscaped areas for common use, staff maintained.
Commissioner David Blaser said he was excited about the project and that there was a market for it. And, he also agreed the project needed to maintain the minimum requirement for open space.
Vice Chairman Jan Simon said overall he liked the project’s layout but felt there should be a center space for something like a park in the middle.
“I feel the area that they have with the dog park and a kids’ pad in the back, both of them are in the back,” he said. “They’re not going to be used by the front two-thirds of that property.
“I feel there’s an opportunity to make something in the middle that really kind of stands out and make this property more than just a landing space for people to go in and out of their doors.”
He added that the developer should look for ways to have the 45-percent open space.
Chairman Carl Bloomfield agreed there was an opportunity to create a sense of community in the middle of the development and that the project was not very creative in its use of open space.
Commissioner William Fay voiced concern with the right-in, right-out single access on Gilbert Road for the development. The project would have a secondary access but only for emergency use.
Fay said the restricted access would cause a “wave of U-turns” by people in the vicinity.
For the proposed Alta Gilbert apartments with 280 units, developer Wood Partners is seeking a minor General Plan amendment and rezone of 13.71 acres at the northwest corner of McQueen and Elliot roads. The land is currently zoned commercial.
The developer proposes putting the rentals on 10.12 acres and building two drive-thru restaurants on 3.59 acres, which would be part of phases two and three.
The complex would include three- and four-story buildings with a mix of one- to three-bedroom units and garages. Amenities include a pool, spa, game lawn, athletic center, clubhouse and a yoga-and-spin room.
The odd-shaped site is within the town’s densest and one of the largest employment areas, senior planner Stephanie Bubenheim told the commission.
She said with some of the General Plan policies placed on the employment corridor, staff feels the proposed project would be the right fit.
Staff’s objections included the proposed site’s adjacency to an existing industrial business park, stating a residential zoning would affect the park’s flexibility to expand or redevelop.
Staff also felt the project would have a significant impact on water use and that commercial land such as the site should be protected because it was key to the town achieving long-term sustainability.
Simons said the developer was asking for a lot of deviations and that he was not ready at this point to give up on land zoned for community commercial for residential.
He also was not a fan of the project’s layout or the request for a reduction in common open space.
The developer wanted to drop the open space requirement to 31 percent from 40 percent by letting on some units have a private open space – a plan Commissioner Brian Andersen opposed.
He said the deviation needed to go away and there was no reason why the project can’t be designed to meet town requirements.
“The ask here seems to be a rather heavy lift,” said Mundt, who noted the “pretty massive” multi-family project would be in the middle of an industrial area.
Although he said the project looked like a nice community, Mundt raised concerns with traffic from the multi-family units and two drive-thrus.
He also objected to the request to reduce the open space and said the project needed more work.
Fay said he had no problem with the request to modify the regulation that prevents drive-thrus from being located within 50 feet of a residentially zoned property. If done right, it could actually be a cool amenity, he said.
But he did have a problem with all the other deviations and the developer’s justification that the project was consistent with the General Plan didn’t work for him, he said.
Bloomfield brought up the study by the Urban Land Institute on the Northwest Employment Area that suggested the area didn’t have “enough mass of people here to supply live, work and play kind of uses.”
ULI panelists in a 2019 discussion about their findings, said to keep the corridor strictly an employment center would hold Gilbert back and that multi-family residential would help fuel employment in the area.
The study suggested the town embrace multi-family housing so people can live and work in the same area.
Bloomfield pointed to Gilbert Town Square across the street from the municipal complex as an example of existing commercial that went from not doing well to thriving when housing came into the area.
“In my mind it makes sense that we would want some sort of multi-family, not all of it, but there should be a component of it that comes in this Northwest Character area,” Bloomfield said.
Bubenheim said staff understands it is helpful to have residential as a component in the Northwest Growth Area to support the services there but it’s also about assessing the residential project’s impact on the adjacent industrial uses as well. She added staff uses the ULI study as a guiding document for the area.
Bloomfield said the opinions offered are valid but at the same time he was not necessarily opposed to having multi-family in the area and on this particular piece of property.
“I don’t want to discount the opportunity that might exist here because I think there is a need for some of that,” he said.
Commissioners also gave positive feedback on an 84-room hotel on 2.6 acres at the southwest corner of Mercy and Pecos roads.
Kuber-Patel Properties is seeking a minor General Plan amendment and rezone in order to develop a Marriott TownePlace Suites hotel within the Val Vista Medial Growth Area. Mercy Gilbert Hospital is the anchor in that growth area, which focuses on medical, research and rehab-care facilities with a mixed-use of commercial and hospitality.
The 49,216-square-foot hotel is proposed to be four stories tall with a fitness center and pool.