The Gilbert Town Council approved on Tuesday a general plan amendment for almost 100 acres just east of Mercy Gilbert Medical Center, including 12 acres of commercial land uses, which proved to be the biggest sticking point.
Almost 100 acres set aside for medical research centers and offices were approved by the council, including 13 acres that would go into the long-planned Celebration Centre for Integrated Healing.
But most of the discussion centered around what should happen to eight to 12 acres on the southeast corner of Pecos and Greenfield roads, an intersection that also features Discovery Park, Eagle's Aerie School and the site of a future Mormon temple.
The council eventually voted 6-1 to allow 12 acres of community commercial uses, despite pleas from residents who said Gilbert has too much retail space and that it wouldn't be compatible with other uses, particularly the temple.
Todd Coons said other cities have worked to keep commercial uses away from major religious centers. "It would be good to know that when you're taking a walk around the park or on the temple grounds, that you're not going to see someone coming out of a tattoo parlor or buying gas or some other distraction," he said.
Craig Berge, owner of the land on the southeast corner, said the land could be rezoned later if the market did not support additional retail uses. Referring to the adjacent neighborhood from where the opposition was coming from, he said, "I guess it's interesting to me the people in the 40 horse acres below us are very independent people and they would not want to be told how to use their property, but they want to tell us what we can do with ours."
The approval of what's known as the Pecos-Mercy General Plan amendment came at the end of a nine-month process during which town planning staff, the council, 19 affected property owners and neighboring residents had to whittle 20 different plans down to one.
The general plan amendment is composed of 49 acres of general office uses, 28 acres of business park, the 12 acres of community commercial on the corner plus another four acres of community commercial for a Swim Kids USA facility, and five acres of public facility or institution.
All of this development will spin off the 200-bed Mercy Gilbert Medical Center just to the west, which is projected to double in capacity within six years.
The first neighborhood meeting was held in March and the first Planning Commission meeting in April.
By the time the commission approved the plan last month, neighbors had won concessions pushing three-story buildings at least 200 feet away from their homes. "It's not the best we could hope for, but we believe it's sufficient to buffer the existing rural lifestyle." Lexington Estates resident Blake Sacha said of the concessions Tuesday night.
Questions about the need for retail space on the southeast corner of Pecos and Greenfield roads came to the fore. The commission recommended downsizing the 12-acre shopping center on that corner to eight acres. Mayor Steve Berman said it "isn't realistic to plan that we're always going to be in a recession," and that, with 90 percent of the town's land dedicated to residential use, Gilbert needed to find more of a balance. "In fact, I wouldn't mind to see a couple more acres allocated to the shopping center," he said.