Like a lot of other fast-developing areas in the East Valley, the once quiet intersection of Pecos and Gilbert roads on the Chandler-Gilbert border is about to become very busy.
The once-rural area has been home to Chandler-Gilbert Community College for a number of years, and housing developments have been springing up in the vicinity.
But the big changes are in the offing. Much of the land around the intersection is zoned for commercial development, and with construction of the San Tan Freeway nearby, this is prime business real estate. That is why DeRito Partners Development and Kimco Developers have picked this intersection for a new 100-acre auto mall. But the developers would like their auto mall a little bigger than the 100-acre site will accommodate, so they want to extend it to include about 16 acres of commercial property on the northwest corner. Since synergy — locating a number of dealers in one area — is crucial to the success of auto malls, the request isn’t unusual or unreasonable.
But it would require a General Plan change to allow an auto dealer on the northwest corner instead of the previously designated neighborhood shopping center, which presumably now would be built on the east side of Gilbert Road.
Essentially, the only change required in the plan is a technical one that allows one type of commercial enterprise — an auto dealer — instead of another — a shopping center. For all practical purposes, we see little difference between putting an auto dealership or a small shopping center on the northwest corner. Both uses attract customers and traffic, though the developers plausibly have said the dealers will actually bring less traffic than a shopping center would.
Although many residents who’ve moved into the area have protested the General Plan change as potentially disruptive to their neighborhoods, and possibly damaging to the nearby college, we’re hard-pressed to see how. Although there definitely will be some dramatic changes to the area in the next few years as the freeway is completed and the commercial areas developed, a relatively minor change in the configuration of the commercial development will make little or no difference for the college or people who live in the area.
Chandler and Gilbert residents fighting the expansion may not have become so upset by it had officials of both cities and the developers, who knew about the expansion plans last summer, been forthright with that information then — which they weren’t.
It will be a busy place, no doubt about it. But it still will be an attractive and desirable place not only to shop and go to school, but also to live. The Chandler City Council should follow the recent recommendation of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission and approve the General Plan change sought by the developers.