After five years, a development battle raging in Carmichael may be ending. A proposed three-story senior living complex in a neighborhood largely comprising single family homes will be up for a vote by the Sacramento County Planning Commission in September.
"It's a classic battle against a developer who is trying to maximize profits," said Cathy Cook, vice president of the Mission Oaks North Neighborhood Association, which is opposed to the project.
At the heart of the controversy is the height of the proposed buildings. The developer, Noah Beygall of Beygall Properties, wants three-story condominiums with a height of 45 feet, but his opponents believe that's too high.
They point to the community being designated a "Neighborhood Preservation Area" by county supervisors in 1985, which aims "to preserve and protect the existing single family residential neighborhoods."
Tricia Stevens, a Sacramento County principal planner, said because the site is zoned for office use, the proposed three-story project, with its 45-foot height, does not conflict with the ordinance.
The 66-unit development, called the Villas at Engle and Mission, has been hailed by Beygall as an "active" senior community. Anyone over the age of 50 will be allowed to either buy or rent the condominiums, though their family members may be younger. Under the current proposal, there will be three main buildings, with a pool and clubhouse located in between. The development will include an underground parking garage and a total of 109 parking spaces.
Jim Wiley, an attorney representing Beygall, notes that the area is an ideal location for the "active" senior, pointing to a nearby community center and a regional transit stop.
"Not every senior wants to or is able to live in a suburban house," Wiley said. "But this is a way for them to stay in the same community."
The neighborhood association, however, has expressed doubts about the senior community classification, with Cook calling it a "smokescreen." Opponents contend that because family members younger than 50 can move in, the residents can be a source of noise pollution, parking problems and a decrease in the standard of living. But they acknowledge height is their primary concern.
"We're not against development," Cook said. "Just stay within the guidelines like every other developer."
Beygall Properties is requesting a special development permit from the county in order to construct the 45-foot-tall buildings. Wiley, though, is unapologetic about the buildings' proposed height. "In order to have those amenities and that quality of development, you have to have three stories," he said. "It's the new direction of how development is going."
Originally, the site was the home of a single-story support facility for the Mercy American River Hospital, which closed in 2000. The support facility was demolished by Beygall in late 2010. Beygall first proposed the 3-acre development project in 2007.
For Kim Prewitt, secretary of the neighborhood association, the project would be a "total intrusion."
"The building would look into my backyard, living room and bedroom," Prewitt said.
Prewitt's house is part of a 60-unit single-family home development built in 2005 next door to the proposed senior complex. According to Prewitt, home values in the area range from $300,000 to $400,000, but if the project gets the green light, he expects the values to decline.
For his part, Beygall has tried to assuage the concerns about height. He has promised the planting of Italian cypress trees and the installation of opaque windows to give his neighbors more privacy.
The county's Planning Commission is expected to vote on a recommendation for the proposal Sept. 10, but the Board of Supervisors will have the final say.
"We would love to welcome another development," said Cathy Spencer, president of the neighborhood association. "But this is not fitting with the character of our neighborhood."