Council

Christine Dees stood up and talked over Mayor Brigette Peterson, demanding that Morrison Ranch be moved up on the agenda during the Gilbert Town Council meeting Nov. 15, which drew a standing-room-only crowd. Dees was eventually ejected for shouting while others were speaking. (David Minton/GSN Staff Photographer)

Gilbert Town Council postponed action until Dec. 13 on The Ranch, a proposed 300-acre light industrial project, after developer IndiCap asked for more time to further revise the plan with residents, who jammed a meeting last week to again voice concerns about truck traffic, building heights and incompatibility with their neighborhood.

The Nov. 15 meeting, packed to overflowing mostly with Morrison Ranch residents, was raucous at times with two police officers escorting resident Christine Dees for shouting from the audience.

“I’ve been the one who’s been saying to the developer all along I think it’s too much light industrial,” Mayor Brigette Peterson said before the 7-0 vote to delay was cast.

“I’ve said it over and over again,” the mayor continued. “I’m not comfortable with the project. This case is a tough one.”

Peterson also responded to a resident who asked why the Town would partner with IndiCap when one of its principals had questionable past financial dealings.

“We do not give developers special treatment,” Peterson said. “We are not going into business with this gentleman. This is not a private-public partnership. This is a gentleman who’s potentially purchasing land in this town.

“Our role in that is to decide whether or not he can use it to the way he’s asking to use it.”

Councilman Laurin Hendrix took credit for asking the developer as a good faith gesture to put off the request for a major General Plan amendment and rezone of the land at the northwest corner of Power and Warner roads and conduct more meetings with residents.

The land is currently zoned approximately 56.5 acres for industrial use, 144.7 acres for general office and 101.2 acres for general commercial. IndiCap proposes 255 acres of industrial, 16.5 acres of general office and 30.9 acres of general commercial.

Hendrix said he met with the developer and with the most vocal Morrison Ranch opponents and that the talks were productive.

“I told (the developer) ‘don’t come back in December and say, “I had eight meetings so therefore support my project,”’” Hendrix said. “I don’t care if you have to meet every single day to try to work something out that can be workable.

“I encouraged the developer to try and make peace in the community, try to work together, don’t try to force this vote. I made it clear to them that I represented the citizens of Gilbert.”

Councilwoman Kathy Tilque said she believed some people want to come up with a solution that would work for the residents and provide employment opportunities for the community.

“I’ve been committed to work with the residents and the developer along the way,” she said. “And we have seen some changes and I believe there is room for additional change.”

Councilman Scott Anderson said the developer has already made a number of concessions, based on feedback from residents

“Please don’t say the developer is not doing anything,” he said. “Sit down with them and talk about stipulations. Keep doing that to get to the final win-win solution.”

Councilwoman Yung Koprowski said she’s followed the case through the Planning Commission and recognized that it’s “a very emotional issue” and that she shared many of the residents’ concerns.

She also acknowledged the revisions the developer already has made to appease the residents.

IndiCap added zoning for a 16.5-acre business park on the western edge of the property that faces the Elliot Grove neighborhood of Morrison Ranch and capped building heights for this land use at 35 feet. The developer also is adding a landscape buffer between the homes and the project site and moving two industrial buildings farther away from the neighborhood.

Koprowski then addressed a public accusation that she should recuse herself because she took a $5,000 donation from IndiCap and $500 from law firm Withey Morris during her primary election campaign.

Withey Morris, which represented the developer for the project, also has given donations to others on council including the mayor, Tilque and Councilman Scott September.

Koprowski said that no dollar amount or project could cause her to compromise her integrity.

Someone from the audience shouted for Koprowski to “give it back” regarding the campaign donations.

Vice Mayor Aimee Yentes said she is a strong advocate of property rights but when it comes to a request for a rezone, the burden is high on the developer to not negatively impact surrounding interests and to show that there is a way to mitigate that impact.

“We have another month to bring something forward,” Yentes said, adding that the Town received 1,337 online comments and all but one opposed The Ranch.

September thanked Morrison Ranch resident Brian Mosley for working diligently with the developer and coming up with rational, creative recommendations that are seen in the latest plan.

“The original plan was not acceptable in my view,” September said. “And I still think that there is work to be done and I think there is room for the developer to make additional concessions or changes to the site plan or other softening especially along that western border” facing Elliot Groves.

Because the item was continued, the developer did not make a presentation.

And, despite Peterson warning that The Ranch might not be the same project in December, 18 residents nonetheless opted to speak. They were limited to one minute instead of the typical three minutes due to the number of speakers.

The residents said the light-industrial project does not fit in with their master-planned residential community and it goes against the General Plan approved in 2020 by voters.

Penny Bertsche said the project was not in the General Plan that residents relied on when buying their homes in Morrison Ranch.

“The noise pollution, the air pollution, the traffic pollution that my family and neighbors are going to be living next to (and) experience 24 hours a day, every single day is not what was promised to us,” she said. “Not when we thought we would buy the homes in that neighborhood, not when we thought we would build homes in that neighborhood.”

Natasha Monahan countered a previous statement from the attorney for the developer that there was no interest for the land as zoned for 13 years, prompting the need for a rezone.

Monahan said property owner Dale Morrison during that time was using the land to feed his 6,500 cows and now wants to sell the acreage. The developer has indicated he will not close on the land if the Town denies the project’s application.

Diana Chambers implored the council to reject the project as proposed because if built, she said her property would lose half its value.

Tyler Farnsworth told the council to hold the developer to the approved General Plan and that a vote for The Ranch “is a vote against the citizens you took an oath to serve and a vote for out-of-state developers and law firms that donated to some of your campaigns.

“Please do the right thing,” he said. “Protect the look and feel of this town that we so love. Don’t let this become a stain on your legacy.”

Jennifer Smith said that under the current zoning, there would be 4,265 jobs generated versus 2,952 jobs with the proposed zoning, which is a 64% loss in jobs.

Also, as automation increases, there would be more job loss in the industrial sector, she added.

And Jeni Everett said if the council were to approve the project that it put in a stipulation banning semiconductor manufacturing on site.

IndiCap has said that the types of tenants proposed for The Ranch included aerospace and aviation industry, high-tech manufacturing, specialty manufacturing, semiconductor-related users, medical and pharmaceutical companies, and electric vehicle component-related uses.

IndiCap representatives also have said that the amount of truck traffic would be “extremely limited” because just 10-15% of the docks on site would be used at any given time and that there would be more traffic under the current zoning..

Councilman-elect Jim Torgeson, who does not live in Morrison Ranch, noted that the council has voted for 46 consecutive zoning changes and this recent request would come at the expense of some residents.

“I want you to give thought to these people because these people haven’t been heard for years,” said Torgeson, a frequent council critic. “They just need to be heard. They need to be listened to. They may not agree with what you say but they need to know that they are being heard.”

Audience members also clapped, whistled and shouted after the speakers spoke, causing the mayor to admonish them.

The vice mayor halted the meeting for five minutes to restore decorum and Peterson threatened to recess the meeting if council was prohibited from conducting business.

Because residents are banned from carrying any signs into the chambers, some wore their message on T-shirts instead.

Dees, the woman removed from the meeting, wore a T-shirt that read “Stop lying.”

When Peterson announced ahead of the discussion on The Ranch that the item will be continued, Dees shouted, “Let us speak. Let everybody speak about The Ranch.”

Despite a call for decorum, Dees responded, “Kick me out. I don’t care. It’s time to talk about The Ranch.”

As she continued to shout from the audience, the mayor finally ordered her removal.

“They are control freaks,” Dees shouted on her way out; “especially Brigette.”

(2) comments

Ridgeview Resident

Enjoyed reading this article “The Ranch” and the uproar in Gilbert. I thought it very refreshing to give specific emphasis to resident’s concerns over the recuring, canned responses from city councils and their planning and zoning departments. Not enough has been said about original zoning and the tacit agreement between homeowners and the city. Unfortunately, too many local governments are now acting as if SB2674 is the law of the land by just brushing aside this very important aspect. I live in Mesa and we residents are experiencing very similar actions from our city government, although in Gilbert it seems, they (council) are beginning to at least recognize and heed resident’s anger over this and what original zoning means to them.

Ridgeview Resident

Ms. Chan,

Enjoyed reading your article “The Ranch” and the uproar in Gilbert. I thought it very refreshing to give specific emphasis to resident’s concerns over the recuring, canned responses from city councils and their planning and zoning departments. Not enough has been said about original zoning and the tacit agreement between homeowners and the city. Unfortunately, too many local governments are now acting as if SB2674 is the law of the land by just brushing aside this very important aspect. I live in Mesa and we residents are experiencing very similar actions from our city government, although in Gilbert it seems, they (council) are beginning to at least recognize and heed resident’s anger over this and what original zoning means to them.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.