Residents outraged over Gilbert’s ‘vocal level’ rankings in road expansion project

The government has been ranking the residents based on “vocal level” over the project.
Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 7:28 PM MST|Updated: Feb. 24, 2023 at 10:20 PM MST
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GILBERT, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - A months-long battle between the Town of Gilbert and residents facing the Ocotillo Road expansion came to a heated head this week over a list. The government has been ranking the residents based on “vocal level” over the project. The town said there was a method behind it but is now apologizing for the way it was done.

Rich Robertson thought he was reading a generic project report until he reached a spreadsheet listing everyone in his Ocotillo Road neighborhood. “It included this column of information called ‘vocal level,’ which caught my attention,” Rich said. “I realized after reading this thing that they had ranked us on a scale of one to four, with one being the most vocal or most in opposition, to four being the most compliant. And I thought this is outrageous. They created this enemies list.”

Rich and his wife Stephanie have lived on Ocotillo Road for almost 20 years. They knew the Town of Gilbert would eventually expand the road as the area became more populated. Still, the town is using eminent domain to widen the road 65 feet in each direction, which would take out many residents’ yards. People have been fighting for 55 feet instead. “That ten feet is the most expensive feet because that’s where a lot of people have built their walls and swimming pools and out buildings,” said Rich.

Rich and Stephanie have requested public documents on the matter and have spoken at several town council meetings about it, which is why Rich wasn’t surprised by his ranking. “I was a number two,” he chuckled.

But his wife said this makes them feel like they’ve done something wrong even though they have the civic right to have these discussions. “Offensive, disgusting, rude, disrespectful. They’re not even treating us like we live here,” Stephanie said.

The Robertsons brought the ranking list to the town council this Tuesday, who claimed they didn’t know it existed. The mayor addressed it. “I haven’t seen it. I don’t know anything about it, and I am just appalled that something like that might be going around,” said Gilbert Mayor Brigette Peterson at the council meeting. “I do believe that you don’t deserve any of that, and I apologize for that.”

Arizona’s Family asked the Town of Gilbert how this even was created and why. The Public Works Director sent us this statement:

Rich and Stephanie said despite this incident, it doesn’t appear the council has any plans to change the project or incorporate their requests and suggestions. “They made it very clear on Tuesday night this project is going forward the way that they designed it, the way they wanted it,” said Rich. “I don’t know what we can do except hopefully get attention for what’s going on and how people are being treated,” said Stephanie.

The Town of Gilbert did not answer our question on where the project stands and when construction will begin, but the Robertsons said they’re expecting the construction to begin sometime this fall.