A dozen scrap plywood boards painted white and spray-painted with green lettering are central to a resident group’s campaign to kill a shopping center planned in their Gilbert neighborhood.
The signs, held up by old rebar and posted around Gilbert, proclaim “Vote no on 401,” and “Spread the word.”
They refer to one of four questions on Gilbert’s Nov. 6 ballot. The issue was placed on the ballot by a group of more than 100 neighbors who signed petitions opposing a Town Council decision to rezone 170 acres of farmland at Greenfield and Germann roads to include 45 acres of shopping space.
Gordon Ray, chairman of the Manage Commercial Density in Gilbert political action committee that placed the issue on the ballot, said he made 13 plywood signs, after a consultant told him homemade signs would draw more attention than more professionally made signs, which blend in as campaign season approaches. Ten have already gone up around town.
“They stick out so much that people look at them,” Ray said. “We prove the plywood sign works just as good as any sign you get from a sign company.”
The committee still plans to raise money for professional signs.
State law requires that a political committee note on its signs the top four contributors to the signs or the political committee funding the signs using in-kind or cash donations.
But Ray argues that because his group spent no money on the scraps used to make the plywood signs, they didn’t list the top contributors.
Town Clerk Cathy Templeton said she has not seen the signs, nor has she received complaints about them.
Some Town Council members and town officials say they’ve spotted the signs, but feel the issue will pass, since they said residents outside Ray’s neighborhood want more retail and sales tax revenue in their growing town.
They argue it’s not the right of residents to dictate what the landowner builds on the site.
“Most people aren’t going to be taken back by a bunch of NIMBYs — not in my back yard people,” Town Councilman Don Skousen said. “Their only concern is what is close to them. If it was anywhere else, they could care less.”
But Ray said the additional small shopping center could harm other stores in the area by diverting shoppers to the new center.
“A small strip mall that they’re proposing will not bring more money to this area,” he said. “All it’s going to do is dilute the existing money that is already in the area.”
The issue is one of two developments on the ballot, but the only one with strong opposition.
Ray’s opposition group and a second group of neighbors joined the Valley Business Owners (and Concerned Citizens) to write arguments opposing the measure, which they say points out bad planning by the town that will oversaturate the market with retail.
The Gilbert Chamber of Commerce filed an argument supporting the landowner’s right to rezone the land.
Voting “no” on the measure kills the rezoning, which could mean homes would be built on the land. Voting “yes” allows the local farmland owner to move forward with plans to develop it in coming years.