GILBERT, AZ — Gilbert’s Town Council voted late Tuesday to uphold the approval of Santan Adventure Park, but added requirements that developers must meet before they will be allowed to begin construction.
The Council voted 6-1 in favor of the entertainment development after three hours of discussion, presentations, public comment, and questions. Mayor Brigette Peterson voted against the motion.
As approved, Santan Adventure Park will be a 4.5-acre entertainment complex with a go-kart track, 18-hole mining-themed mini-golf course, splash pad, and a building for concessions and maintenance.
It will be built in two phases at Crossroads Park, near AZ Ice, on the corner of Knox Road and San Tan Village Parkway.
The first phase will include go-karts, mini-golf, splash pad, and concessions. Details on the second phase have not been determined.
Here are the stipulations that Town Council added:
- Submit updated design to the Planning Commission to include a decorative CMU wall along San Tan Village Parkway and more trees to mitigate noise
- Go-karts will use “super silent” mufflers or the equivalent
- Loudspeakers will not be used for public announcements
- Sound effects will not exceed 60 decibels at the property line
- The creation of a neighborhood group
- A noise study must be conducted and those findings reported to the Town Council within six months of opening
Some of the added measures, such as the wall, silent mufflers, and trees, were concessions that the developers behind Santan Adventure Park told the council they were willing to make.
"We are grateful for the Town of Gilbert's support for this exciting, family-friendly fun park. We appreciate our neighbors' input and we look forward to finalizing our plans and to opening as soon as possible," said Ben Cooper, the developer behind the project, in a statement to ABC15 on Wednesday.
Once submitted, those plans will be reviewed and approved by the Developmental Services Department. They will not need to be re-approved by the Design Review Board or Town Council unless substantial changes are made, according to Kelsey Perry, spokesperson for the Town of Gilbert.
The entertainment complex has become a point of contention between the developers and residents of nearby neighborhoods over the last few months.
Many residents from nearby neighborhoods have attended and spoke at various meetings against the project, specifically concerned about noise levels from the go-karts and families, lighting, pollution, increased traffic, and fear that it would reduce their home values.
Others felt there was a lack of notice about the project from developers and the Town government.
“It comes down to an adventure park does not belong in the middle of two neighborhoods,” Randy Nelson, the resident who filed the appeal, told council members. He added that his house was nearly 250 feet away from where the go-kart track would be.
Nelson said he researched the locations of several go-kart attractions in Arizona and in other states and none of them were within neighborhoods.
“We’re not against this project, we think it would be a fun project, just not right there. It doesn’t make sense,” said Sandra Avery, another resident who lives in one of the neighborhoods.
A representative for Santan Adventure Park argued that the project’s lease was approved by the Town of Gilbert years ago for several possible uses -- including go-karts, splash pads, a zipline, escape room, carousel, bumper cars, among others -- but that the developer wants to be a good neighbor and was already willing to add more elements to ease neighbors’ concerns, including a wall, more trees, and not using a loudspeaker for announcements.
He also cautioned council members that the appeal itself was focused on potential noise and the noise study that was presented at the Design Review Board.
Several council members sought to find a compromise between the developers and neighbors. Others mentioned that the Town has a noise ordinance already in place and measures to enforce it if a business or homeowner continuously violates that rule.
Wednesday afternoon, Nelson told ABC15 via phone that despite the concessions, which he said were "OK," he is still not happy with the council's vote because it means the go-kart track is still part of the project
"Citizens should come first and in Gilbert, they don’t," he said.
Nelson said his next stop could be a lawsuit, but that he had not yet spoken to his lawyer about whether or not that is even a possibility.
Council members also spent several minutes discussing the Town's noise ordinance and the possibility that it needed to be reviewed and updated for the future, and what, if any, impact that would have on previous projects.
Editor's note: Story updated to include comments and additional information from the developer of Santan Adventure Park, Randy Nelson, who filed the appeal against the project, and the Town of Gilbert.