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Community near Gilbert calls Ocotillo Widening Project a 'land grab'

Posted at 7:00 PM, May 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-24 22:00:06-04

GILBERT — A neighborhood near Gilbert is riled up, angered about the Ocotillo Widening Project that’ll take chunks of land from dozens of property owners.

Many property owners made their voices heard Tuesday evening at the Town of Gilbert’s council meeting.

Ellen West and her husband were there.

“I’m just heart-sick about it. I cry every night,” said Ellen when talking about the project.

ABC15 talked to her in her home. She tells us she’s been living here for more than 20 years.

“This is my only sanctuary,” she added.

She’s been fighting three forms of cancer since 2011.

“This is where I’ll be dying,” said Ellen.

She says the last thing she wants is for her beautiful backyard to be destroyed.

“How would anybody like to walk out their back porch and go 15 feet and run into a wall?” she asked.

Truth is, with this road widening project, thousands of square feet in the West household will be gone.

“It takes me from being an agricultural one acre plus property, which I’m zoned for, to a little subdivision property,” she said.

One she says the town won’t pay top dollar for, as it would only be paying for the raw land being taken.

“My home is worth somewhere between $850,000 and $1,000,000 plus. When they take this land away it will be less than one acre and my property will be less than $400,000,” Ellen told ABC15.

The Town of Gilbert set aside $2.9 million to buy the land from more than 40 property owners.

“I will lose virtually everything I’ve built this property to have,” she said, while looking at her trees, sheds, and chicken coop.

She also says because she lives in an unincorporated area of Maricopa County…

“They didn’t ask us. We weren’t considered in the least,” she said in disbelief.

ABC15 reached out to the Town of Gilbert asking about the road widening project, given the ongoing concerns of nearby residents. The Town of Gilbert providing a statement saying the following:

“ST0990, the widening of Ocotillo Road from Val Vista Drive to Greenfield Road, is a critical piece of infrastructure needed to provide connectivity in the southern part of the community as identified in past general plans and transportation master plans. The project is approaching 60% design, with anticipated design completion occurring late 2022.

The rights-of-way needed for the project will follow Maricopa County and Gilbert's standards for a minor arterial roadway. The project team is currently meeting with property owners to discuss the needs of the project. The County is leading the property acquisition process for those located on county island parcels. The project team is also planning to host a public meeting in mid-June. Eminent domain is only used if the County, Town and property owner are unable to reach an agreement on amicable terms. The goal is to come to a mutual agreement that is fair and reasonable to all parties.”

The project will widen the current two-lane Ocotillo Road into four traffic lanes with a center turn lane, bike lanes, sidewalks and streetlights. Though, West says, that isn’t needed.

“So, I’m asking them to leave it alone,” she said.

Gilbert will also put a bridge at Greenfield and Higley roads, where Ocotillo currently dead ends, to improve emergency response.

West says she isn’t opposed to change but believes changing infrastructure should not come at her family’s expense.

“I’ve been waiting for a decade for my Jacaranda tree to bloom. And they’re going to bulldoze it,” she said.

West says she, her husband, and their neighbors will continue making their voices heard, in order to come to a resolution that benefits everyone.

“I don’t know how else we can do this, other than fight the good fight,” she told ABC15.