Gilbert Town Council upheld by a 6-1 vote the Gilbert Planning Commission’s decision to approve the park’s design despite large opposition from residents of two neighborhoods, Greenfield Lakes and Cottonwoods Crossing, by the park. Mayor Brigette Peterson cast the lone vote in dissent.
Neighbors primarily objected to the noise that would come from the park, especially from a 22-car go-kart track. The residents also cited pollution, traffic, lighting and parking.
However, in trying to forge a compromise solution that would address neighbor concerns, Council Member Kathy Tilque proposed a series of restrictions to attenuate the noise. Some of the restrictions already had been agreed to by developer SAP Holdings but were not part of the lease agreement.
After council discussion, the restrictions added were:
- building a decorative sound wall and adding trees by the track to attenuate go-kart noise;
- using of after-market “super silent” mufflers on the go-karts;
- barring the use of a public address system to make park announcements;
- limiting the level of noise from sound effects that are to be used at a miniature golf course at the park;
- establishing a neighbors and users committee; and
- conducting a noise study within six months of park opening.
Randy Nelson, who said his house is 250 feet from the park, made the appeal on behalf of the residents, though many residents spoke in support of Nelson’s appeal. Though the appeal cited three points, officials said by law council could only consider the noise aspect as the basis of the appeal.
Nelson brought in acoustical engineer Lance Willis from Perception Acoustics in Tucson as an expert supporting the residents’ appeal, and Willis cited flaws in the sound studies that meant the noise would be greater than developers said. He also contended Gilbert’s noise ordinances were antiquated and inadequate.
However, when pressed by Council Member Laurin Hendrix, Willis would not say the noise from the park would break the decibel levels prescribed in one part of Gilbert’s sound ordinances.
Council also wrestled with how to address two different portions of the code, one that prohibited noise above 55 decibels during the day and 45 decibels at night and another about reasonable noise that Council Member Aimee Yentes described as “nebulous.”
SAP Holdings’ attorney Sean Lake said the group’s expert studies, one done on a model and the other from “real-world experience,” showed the noise from the go-karts would not exceed the nighttime requirement even during the day.
In his closing comments, Nelson said he believed it came down to a common-sense issue of not putting in a go-kart track between two neighborhoods.
“We ask you to put citizens and residents first,” he said.
Lake also contended the appellant failed to meet its burden of proof showing that the park would violate the noise ordinances.