Residents fail to halt 108-unit complex - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Residents fail to halt 108-unit complex

December 22nd, 2020 SanTan Sun News
Residents fail to halt 108-unit complex

By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

Efforts to stop a multi-family housing complex from going up near Gilbert and Riggs roads have failed after the Chandler City Council gave developers the green light to proceed..

In a 6-1 vote, the council overruled neighbors’ objections to the 108-unit complex, called The Villages at Chandler, which will be built on a plot of vacant land surrounded by single-family homes.

Developers describe their project as a “pocket neighborhood,” consisting of several luxury duplexes and triplexes occupied by residents who can easily become friends due to their closeness to each other.

“The community design will allow for spontaneity, encourage connections, and lay the foundation for lasting friendships,” the project’s plans state.

The $22-million complex is expected to feature a dog park, pool, fitness area and outdoor recreation areas.

Hundreds of nearby residents signed an online petition against the project, saying it would generate more traffic and eliminate the opportunity to develop the land for commercial or retail uses.

“We don’t think it’s a good fit,” said Cristie Brown, who signed the petition. “We feel like it’s being developed because it’s stayed empty for many years.”

Some neighbors felt blindsided by the project and accused developers of not properly notifying residents and allowing them a chance to offer feedback before seeking approval from the city.

“We do not believe we are being heard,” said Deborah Kehl, another resident who signed the petition. “People are frustrated at not being heard.”

Wendy Riddell, an attorney representing the developer, claimed her client went above the standard outreach requirements to keep neighbors informed about Villages at Chandler.

The developers held public meetings, knocked on doors and posted information on social media to let residents know about the project in advance, the attorney said.

“We value neighborhood input, we value stakeholder input, we’ve done everything we could to get the word out,” Riddell said.

The southeast corner of Gilbert and Riggs road was developed into a bank and pharmacy in 2008, and some residents expected the surrounding vacant land would also be put to more commercial uses.

But Riddell said the market has changed dramatically over the last decade and there’s much less demand for retail stores and offices at every intersection.

“The world has changed to where having four corners for commercial simply doesn’t make sense,” she added.

Common complaints made by neighbors involved the possible noise, crime and traffic that the development might generate in an area of Chandler consisting mostly of single-family homes.

The city did not require developers to submit a full traffic analysis for the Villages because the project has a limited number of housing units. Data reviewed by city staff suggests the area’s average daily traffic trips would increase more substantially if the land was developed for commercial purposes.   

“The proposed multi-family units will generate approximately 60 to 76 percent fewer (daily trips) than the land uses permitted by the existing zoning,” city documents state.

Though the city received several emails from residents opposing the Villages project, some neighbors are hopeful it will come to fruition and offer more variety to Chandler’s housing stock.

Caitlyn Gulsvig, a young professional who grew up around the project site, said she would be interested in living in one of the complex’s units because it’d be near her family and more affordable than a single-family home.

“There isn’t an option for me as somebody who doesn’t want to buy a home,” Gulsvig said. “This is exactly what I’m looking for at this point in time.”

Despite the mixed feelings and criticisms expressed to city officials, Council ultimately sided with the developer by allowing the land to be rezoned for multi-family housing.

“There aren’t any other apartments around this location,” said Vice Mayor Rene Lopez. “There’s a lot of very nice houses and there’s not a lot of diversity in housing in this area.”

The Villages is estimated to generate more than $300,000 in revenue for the city over the next decade through property taxes and building permit fees.

Councilman Matt Orlando, the only council member to vote against the project, felt the Villages won’t be affordable for the many residents who are already getting pushed out of the city by rising rents.

“Although this is a beautiful project, it’s in my mind more of the same,” Orlando said. “It’s not going to the heart of what we’re facing in our community today.”