updated 12:17 p.m. –
A controversial proposal to relocate city hall picked up community support last night as the City presented a new site option located a block away from the existing hall, but many residents remained staunchly opposed to a related proposal to construct a three-story medical building “monstrosity” in place of the existing hall.
“We had some really good input,” said City Manager Henry Tingle, commenting after Wednesday’s community meeting which was attended by about 150 residents. “There’s no question that we had an overwhelming consensus that the new site that we’re proposing is much better (than the previously proposed site on Antelope Road).”
About a dozen residents spoke during the evening’s question and answer period, with comments describing the proposed design as “beautiful” and “far-superior,” thanking the City for listening to resident complaints about the Antelope Road site being too far from the “heart” of the city.
The presentation of the new single-story hall design was delivered by Rod Johnson of Capital Partners Development Co., who said he pitched the idea to the City Manager after reading last month about the city council’s decision to take “no action” on plans to move forward at the Antelope Road site, following a lawsuit threat. He said his company was hoping to turn the 10.9-acre site into a new housing development with 160-unit multi-family townhomes, but that a deal they were working on recently “went away.” The parcel is currently zoned RD-20 for medium density residential, and would need to be re-zoned in order for the hall to be built there.
With colorful artistic renderings and slides, Johnson explained his proposal would turn the triangle-shaped property adjacent to the Post Office from a field of weeds into a 35,000 square feet city hall, with plenty of room for parking, expansion and a 1.5-acre corp yard for City vehicles — options unavailable at the smaller Antelope Road site. He also said his “build-to-suit” proposal would cost about the same as the estimated $18.9 million to build at the Antelope Road site.
Johnson acknowledged the site has some downsides, citing its protected “wetlands” areas which he said would likely limit development on portions of the land, and also some traffic difficulties on the 2-lane Fountain Square Drive in front of the site — although he said traffic would be significantly lower with a city hall than with townhomes.
Johnson’s presentation left even the most staunch opponents of moving city hall more open to the idea, although many still opposed the related plan to allow Dignity Health to construct a 68,000 square feet medical office building in place of the existing hall.
“This is a super positive development,” said Tim Schaefer, who has been a lead voice in opposing plans to move city hall and also initiated the lawsuit threat to stop the City from building at Antelope Road. He balanced his remarks with a caution that the City should fully research the new proposal, asking “what’s the rush?”
Concerns voiced during the meeting over the medical building revolved largely around increased traffic on Greenback Lane and its 57-foot height, which one resident called a “monstrosity” that would invade privacy in nearby homes, since backyards would be visible from the three-story structure.
Resident Sally Smith said she appreciated the City responding to concerns about the Antelope Road hall site, but felt the City is not listening to concerns about the proposed medical building site. She would prefer to have the medical building in another location, but said a lower, two-story design would help alleviate some privacy concerns at its currently proposed location at the corner of Greenback Lane and Fountain Square Drive.
Another criticism of the medical building was offered by Schaefer who said the City would be better off selling the existing property to a for-profit business, since Dignity Health would not be paying property tax as a non-profit hospital – an amount he says could be as high as $400,000 a year on a $30 million building.
Although the existing property has been assessed in the $1 million price range, the Dignity Health proposal would allow for the City to gain a much higher amount of $6.9 million from a 15-year lease, helping subsidize the cost of a new hall.
City officials have called the Dignity Health proposal a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for Citrus Heights to get an $18.9 million new hall for an estimated net cost of about $5 million. The discounted cost would come primarily from income brought in by the proposed Dignity Health lease, as well as from projected energy and repair savings coming from a more efficient new city hall building, according to the City Manager.
Tingle also responded afterward to an accusation that a new hall is unnecessary, based on a 2014 Appraisal Report which gives the existing hall a remaining 30-year life.
“If you continue to spend money, you can keep any building going for 30 years,” said Tingle, likening it to fixing up an old car rather than replacing it. He argued that it would be more cost effective in the long run to build a new hall and sell the existing property, acknowledging during his public comments that even if the deal with Dignity Health fell through, there are “other funding opportunities” for a new city hall.
Staff said they will be asking the city council next week to declare the Stock Property as the “preferred site” for a new hall, focusing attention away from Antelope Road and authorizing a full Environmental Impact Report on the new site.
A controversial proposal to relocate city hall picked up community support last night as the City presented a new site option located a block away from the existing hall, but many residents remained staunchly opposed to a related proposal to construct a three-story medical building "monstrosity" in place of the existing hall.
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