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Settlement reached in lawsuit against new city hall & MOB project

view of medical office building on Greenback lane in Citrus Heights
This initial computer rendering of the new three-story medical office building on Greenback Lane shows the building with a 20-foot setback, which will increase to a 30-foot setback, according to terms of a settlement agreement reached. // Image courtesy, City of Citrus Heights.

A settlement agreement has been reached in a lawsuit between a resident group and the City of Citrus Heights, nearly a year after council members unanimously approved a controversial plan to move city hall and construct a three-story medical office building (MOB) in its place on Greenback Lane.

The lawsuit, filed last April by a resident group known as Preserve Our Civic Center (POCC), alleged the project did not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and sought to put a halt on both the new city hall and MOB until alleged violations were addressed.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, POCC agreed to drop its lawsuit against the City, in exchange for several modifications to the original plan. POCC will also receive payment of $67,500 to cover its attorney fees and costs involved in the lawsuit.

Modifications listed in the settlement primarily address issues raised by residents during the debate over the project last year, including concerns about screening and setback for the 68,727-square-foot medical building, increased traffic, and a desire to preserve the old rose garden at city hall.

A statement issued by POCC spokesman Norman Hill summarized key aspects of the settlement agreement and stated the group was “pleased” to announce the settlement had been reached. Previously, Hill told The Sentinel he was hopeful “some kind of compromise settlement” could be reached with the City through the legal process, and he appears to have accomplished that.

[For more on the lawsuit, see story: Lawsuit filed against Citrus Heights over MOB, new hall”]

The city manager’s office confirmed Thursday that a settlement had been reached, but referred all requests for comment to City Attorney Ruthann Ziegler. Messages left by phone and email for Ziegler on Thursday were not returned by 4 p.m. Friday.

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Five key modifications listed in the settlement include:

  • Setback from Greenback Lane: In an effort to reduce the visual impact of the building from travelers on Greenback, the new Dignity Health medical building will be set back an additional 10 feet, for a total setback of 30 feet from Greenback Lane.
  • Screening: To help provide screening for the adjacent neighborhood, a row of Redwood trees will be planted along the western border of the new medical building.

  • Traffic: The left turn lane from eastbound Greenback Lane onto Fountain Square Drive will be extended by four car lengths. Hill previously told The Sentinel he believed this modification would help alleviate a traffic backup he anticipates with the new MOB.
  • Access: Larger vehicles exiting a soon-to-be-built utility yard next to the new city hall will be required to exit only from the northern driveway. According to POCC, this will help reduce the impact on local traffic passing by on Fountain Square Drive.
  • Rose garden. A public meeting will be held by the City to discuss development of a replacement rose garden at another location, although the ultimate decision is left to the City whether to expend public funds on the garden or not.

The settlement announcement comes less than a month prior to a scheduled Sacramento Superior Court hearing on the lawsuit, originally set for April 1, 2016.

What’s next

It is unclear whether the lawsuit had an effect on construction progress of the new medical building, as neither POCC nor the City said work had been halted on the project. However, the lot has laid dormant since demolition of the former hall was completed in November of last year.

According to a statement from the city manager’s office in January, Panattoni Development had submitted plans for the new medical building, with construction estimated to begin in spring of this year — although a specific start date was unknown.

[Related: Citrus Heights city hall ‘on target’ for completion by September” ]

Construction work on the new city hall began last summer, with an expected completion date of September of this year.

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