The developers of Main Street Commons must obtain a special permit in order to build stand-alone apartment complexes, Gilbert's Board of Adjustment voted Wednesday night.
The 5-0 vote upheld the town zoning administrator's ruling that the Town Council and Planning Commission envisioned "loft residences, built over shops and office space."
The town's Planning Commission also serves as its board of adjustment, hearing appeals of administrative decisions.
Town planners and officials said when Main Street Commons was brought forward four years ago by Kierland Commons developer Woodbine Southwest, the Scottsdale development was the model everyone hand in mind, in particular the dwellings built over retail space.
Town attorney Susan Goodwin said she went with other Gilbert officials on the field trips to Kierland, and "we all fell in love with lofts."
She and others argued there was nothing in the adopted zoning ordinance which allowed for stand-alone apartments on the site near Pecos Road and Val Vista Drive, though there was no strong definition of the term that was used in the documents, "residential uses."
Mike Withey, attorney for one of the companies that later bought Woodbine out of the property, said of the fixation on the Kierland vision, "maybe that's why the i's weren't dotted and the t's weren't crossed in the description of this project."
He argued the original developers actually wanted to pursue both styles of residencies found at Kierland, but was unable to convince the board.
One member, Jennifer Witmann, abstained due to a conflict of interest and another, Karl Kohlhoff, did when the rest voted because "I don't have enough information to make a good decision."
The hearing lasted around an hour and came after five delays requested by the developer over several months.
Withey said he wasn't sure if his client, Opus West, would file an appeal of the decision. If Opus does, it would have to be filed in the next 30 days and it would go to Maricopa County Superior Court, Withey said.
Economic conditions and financial hardship has delayed development on most of the Main Street Commons site, but the first piece, a Hyatt Place hotel, is scheduled to open late this month.