Gilbert Town Council gave approval Nov. 16 to zoning changes that will allow an area designated for community commercial development to become an apartment development with an adjacent commercial use.

Alta Gilbert, a 278-apartment development with three- to four-story buildings, will be built at the northwest corner of McQueen and Elliot roads.

Council voted 5-2 for the changes though staff recommended declining the changes. Council Members Kathy Tilque and Scott September voted in dissent.

The change turns the 13.46-acre area designated for community commercial into 11.09 acres of multifamily/high density and 2.37 acres of community commercial.

Sean Lake, the attorney representing developer Wood Partners, said the area had failed to attract commercial development for more than 30 years and said the apartments would be high end, bringing needed potential employees into the town’s northwest employment area and spurring economic growth.

Lake noted an Urban Land Institute study on the northwest area saw a need for multifamily housing in the area to furnish area businesses with employees.

Lake also said Square One Concepts already has committed to putting a restaurant concept in the smaller commercial space at the corner.

Gilbert Senior Planner Keith Newman and Economic Development Deputy Director Jennifer Graves said staff believed commercial use needed to be preserved in the area, which the town is considering for the state’s redevelopment area designation.

Newman said the town believed the corner of a major intersection was an inappropriate use of the multifamily/high-density designation and that it would cause traffic and water usage concerns.

He also said town staff did not like the development’s visual impact along McQueen Road, the need for increased setbacks industrial uses to the west and commercial uses to the north.

Tilque said though the area has not yet attracted commercial development, she believed it is now coming from the south of the site, where Gilbert Spectrum business park is looking to expand.

September said he believed it was a quality project but in the wrong area.

However, Council Member Scott Anderson noted the long wait for any signs of commercial development and said he would feel better about going with staff if there was a letter of intent for someone to develop it commercially.

Council Member Aimee Yentes said she did not believe the project negatively impacted neighboring projects, while Mayor Brigette Peterson said she believed it to be an appropriate in-fill project.

Council had received emails and heard from residents and businesses both in support and opposed to the project.

Other items

Council voted 6-1 with Yentes dissenting to activate a nine-member Gilbert Community Engagement Task Force and begin advertising to have residents apply to fill the positions. As discussed at Town Council’s retreat Nov. 8-9, the task force’s prioritized focus topics from council include domestic violence; mental health and suicide prevention; homelessness and low-income challenges; human and sex trafficking; and diversity, equity and inclusion. The topics also were identified as important in the 2019 community needs assessment.

Council voted 5-2 with Yentes and Laurin Hendrix dissenting to approve a $100,000 contract with consultant Coraggio Group to develop a 2022 tourism strategic plan. Yentes said she believed the town had the expertise on staff to develop that plan.

Council voted 5-2, again with Yentes and Hendrix dissenting, to amend a contract with Visus Engineering Construction for Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant improvements in the Heritage District. Yentes said she believed some of the improvements to be “gold plated” and therefore unnecessarily expensive.