GILBERT, AZ — The neighborhood battle over whether or not to allow a developer to build a mini amusement park with gas-powered go-karts, miniature golf, and a free splash pad in Gilbert continues, as an appeal against the Planning Commission's approval of the project has been submitted.
Jennifer Harrison, spokesperson for the Town of Gilbert, confirmed to ABC15 that an appeal was submitted on Monday, April 19.
"The appeal will need to be reviewed by staff and legal counsel and be placed on a Town Council agenda for Public Hearing within 60 days of the appeal being filed," she said in an email, which means the appeal will need to be heard on or before June 18.
The council will have three options on the appeal:
- Uphold the Planning Commission's approval of the amusement park's design
- Modify the approval and request updates to the amusement park's design
- Reverse the Planning Commission's approval of the project
Santan Adventure Park is proposed as a 4.5-acre adventure park with an 18-hole Old West-themed mini-golf course, a 21 go-kart track, a free community splash pad, and a concession stand and maintenance building at Crossroads Park, near Knox Road and SanTan Village Parkway. It would share a parking lot with AZ Ice Gilbert, an indoor ice skating and hockey venue.
It will be built in two phases, with the second phase still being conceptualized.
Randy Nelson, a Gilbert resident who lives in one of the neighborhoods across the street from where the proposed go-kart track will be built, said he filed the appeal on behalf of himself and with the support of other residents who are against the project.
"Where did common sense go?" Nelson said in a Wednesday interview with ABC15.
"They've basically stomped on our quality of life. It can't happen. We're extremely disappointed that the town council didn't use an ounce of common sense on this. Everything I'm sure is absolutely legal, there's no question about that. Our question is, 'where did common sense go?'"
Nelson said his home is approximately 250 feet from the park, and he is concerned that the operating hours and sounds of the go-kart engines and squealing tires will force him to keep his windows shut and dictate when he will be able to go outside or sleep.
At the Planning Commission's meeting on April 7, where the project's design was ultimately approved in a 5-2 vote, a few people submitted cards or emails in support of the project.
However, several residents from nearby neighborhoods were there in person to discuss concerns about noise, increased traffic, parking, lighting, emissions, and lack of communication on the project.
One of those was Sandra Avery, who told the Planning Commission that she lived in the Cottonwood Crossings neighborhood.
"People have been calling us NIMBYs, which stands for 'not in my backyard.' I guess you could say that, but we don’t want it in anybody’s backyard," she said.
Below is a Youtube video of the April 7 Planning Commission meeting (discussion about Santan Adventure Park begins at 24:40 mark.)
"We respect the questions the neighbors have, yet outdoor go-karts have been an approved use since the town awarded us the lease back in 2017," said developer Ben Cooper, in an email to ABC15 on Wednesday.
"Since then, we have worked with the town to thoughtfully design the layout of the park to fit in with its surroundings and we have never considered features like loudspeakers."
At the April 7 meeting, Cooper said he conducted a sound study that found that the noise from the go-karts traveling over 250 feet, including over peak normal vehicle traffic, would increase by a total of one decibel. An expert there claimed it would take at least three decibels to perceive such an increase.
"The sound studies, in our opinion, they took into account the go-kart engine, nothing else," Nelson told ABC15, adding the potential rattling of an engine, squealing tires, or squealing children.
Residents have since asked for an independent sound study to be conducted.
Cooper also told the Commission that he removed a fire feature, altered a waterfall feature, improved the sound system, and added more trees and shrubs to the design to address concerns. He added that while public documents list 22 go-karts, he said in reality the plan is to purchase 21, of which 10 or 11 would be racing around the track at one time.
Another point of contention, residents feel there was a lack of communication about the project's development and potential impact on them between 2016 and 2021.
A meeting was held in October 2016, which Nelson attended, but he said go-karts were not part of the proposed development at that time. No other neighborhood meetings have been held since, he said.
A senior planner with the town told the Planning Commission on April 7 that because the lease had been signed and the development was going through the town's Design Review Board, additional neighborhood meetings were not required.
In 2017, Cooper submitted a conceptual idea to Gilbert and signed a lease agreement with Gilbert allowing a variety of potential uses at the park, including go-karts, splash pads, miniature golf, laser tag, and an arcade, among others.
The project then stalled in 2017 over funding issues, according to the town, and in December 2020, Cooper submitted a solidified design plan. That plan was approved on April 7.
Nelson told ABC15 that he believes Gilbert's 272-acre Regional Park would have been a better spot for the amusement park.
"They would be the candy aisle at Fry's, you know, trying to get your kids out of that park past that go-kart track. Why didn't they move there?" he said.
Gilbert Regional Park is home to a large play area, sports courts, an outdoor theatre, and, eventually, a 25-acre cable-based sports water park, called The Strand at Gilbert. The water park has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We are excited to bring this wholesome, family-oriented entertainment opportunity to Gilbert. We are confident that it will be an excellent addition to a very active Crossroads Park and to the Town of Gilbert as a whole," said Cooper, the developer.