Gilbert town and education roundup: Chandler USD looks to build more schools

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As growth continues in south Gilbert, the Chandler USD, which serves the area, is looking at adding perhaps two schools there, officials said.

The district could open in the future an elementary school–perhaps as a traditional school–as well as a boutique high school, that isn’t the size of the district’s other schools in the area, district spokesman Terry Locke said in an email.

“All of our schools down there are busting at the seams,” CUSD Chief Financial Officer Lana Berry said. “They’ve all got lots of kiddos in a lot of those areas, so we’re going to have to relieve them some or they’ll go another place.”

Berry told the governing board in October that the area, which she called the “Val Vista corridor,” was the last area of growth for the district. However, Chandler USD is experiencing declining enrollment overall.

She told the board then that, as a result of its overall enrollment numbers, the Arizona School Facilities Board would not provide the district funds to build another school, which put the financial burden on the district through bonds.

However, she warned the board that if the district did not build in the area, a charter school would.

“At this point we need to make sure that we’ve maximized and repurposed any schools that we can, and we need to make sure we’re building in our last area that we’re really growing,” Berry said. “And then we really have to plan for the future.”

Revisions of special events ordinance passed

Gilbert Town Council voted unanimously Dec. 6 to revise the special events ordinance, narrowing the definition so that a special events permit would not be needed as often.

Mayor Jenn Daniels spearheaded the changes, expressing concern about private property rights and using staff time and resources to issue the permits.

The changes in the ordinance significantly narrowed the types of activities on private property that require special events permit and slightly narrowed those activities on town property that require the permit. The permit now is required for events with more than 500 attendees.

Furthermore, a permit will not be required for events owned or leased by a school district or religious institution.

No special events permit will be required for a “temporary sales event” that is conducted on private non-commercial property as long as no more than two such events occurred on the same property within the same calendar year. The ordinance defines a temporary sales event as one that lasts three consecutive days or less that does not require town services or resources.

A private property owner remains liable for activities on the property, including implementing adequate emergency access and safety measures. Owners must comply with applicable zoning building, fire, noise and other regulations.

Some residents had pushed back against changing the ordinance, fearing that eliminating or changing the special events permit process would take a tool out of their arsenal when trying to rein in neighbors who regularly hold events on their property.

However, Daniels said some of the problem was a confusion between a special-use permit, which allows for unusual uses within a designated zone, and a special event permit, which is more for rarer occasions. Daniels used the Elegant Barn, a special events venue within a residential neighborhood, as an example of something that works under special-use permit.

Some residents who spoke against the ordinance rollback in November spoke before its passage, thanking the city for helping them combat their problems and approving of the changes.

At Council Member Eddie Cook’s request, the council will revisit the issue in 12 months to see the effect.

Council approves Enclave at Madera Parc project

Town Council approved plans for the Enclave at Madera Parc, a 52-unit single-family home development, at its Dec. 6 meeting.

Neighbors at the Madera Parc and Candlewood neighborhoods objected to the infill project, which is in part built on flood basin that has filled twice from rainstorms in the past 20 years. They also expressed privacy and traffic concerns.

However, the development plans called for tanks to store floodwater underground to make up for the loss of the retention basin, plus a landscaped perimeter area to ensure neighbors’ privacy. Traffic considerations also were addressed.

Staff deemed the concerns adequately addressed in their meeting before the Council voted.

Quote of note

“Really, this is awesome. You’ve done a great job, really dug in, inside and out.”

—Council Member Victor Petersen to Mayor Jenn Daniels as he made the motion to approve the special events ordinance.

Meetings

Gilbert Town Council
Jan. 8, 6 p.m. inauguration, 7 p.m. meeting
Jan. 22, 5:30 p.m. study session, 6:30 p.m. meeting
50 E. Civic Center Drive, Gilbert
480-503-6871
www.gilbertaz.gov

Gilbert Public Schools board
Jan. 8, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 22, 6:30 p.m.
140 S. Gilbert Road, Gilbert
480-497-3300
www.gilbertschools.net

Higley Unified School District board
Jan. 16, 5:30 p.m.
2935 S. Recker Road, Gilbert
480-279-7000
www.husd.org

Chandler Unified School District board
Jan. 9, 7 p.m.
Jan. 23, 7 p.m.
1525 W. Frye Road, Chandler
480-812-7000
www.cusd80.com

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Tom Blodgett
Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent 30 years in journalism in Arizona and is the editor of the Gilbert edition of Community Impact Newspaper. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he now serves as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.
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