Dignity Health

An artist’s rendering show the three-story, 68,000-square-foot medical office building that Dignity Health proposes to build at Greenback Lane and Fountain Square Drive, currently the site of Citrus Heights’ civic center.

Citrus Heights residents launch petition drive to fight relocation of city hall

Published: Wednesday, Jun. 25, 2014 - 9:53 pm
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jun. 25, 2014 - 11:43 pm

With hearings scheduled next month on a proposal to move Citrus Heights’ city hall to make way for a medical office building, foes of the plan have launched a website and petition drive to prevent dismantling of their civic center.

Leaders of the Save City Hall campaign said they are frustrated by city officials who appear to be treating the projects as done deals and July’s hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council as mere formalities.

“It’s so apparent the city doesn’t want to hear (opposing views),” said resident Tim Schaefer. “They’re full steam ahead. But I’ve got every bit as much energy.”

Schaefer and others are circulating petitions that state, “We, the undersigned, do not want city hall moved from its current location on Fountain Square Drive.”

The project, the subject of several informational meetings and community workshops over the past year, calls for Dignity Health to construct a three-story medical office building at the northwest corner of Greenback Lane and Fountain Square Drive, site of the city’s current Civic Center. Existing city buildings, except the Police Department, would be demolished and a new city hall would be built on a city-owned parcel at 7625 Antelope Road, between Sunrise and Auburn boulevards.

Dignity Health officials say the new facility is needed to meet the anticipated demand for health care services due to an aging population and implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The proposed 68,000-square-foot building would house 50 physicians and 120 support staff, all new hires.

City officials say the deal with Dignity Health would provide revenue to help replace aging city office buildings, constructed in 1977 to house a nursery and retail shops. With the payments Dignity Health would make over 15 years for lease of the Fountain Square land, plus anticipated savings in building operation and maintenance costs, City Manager Henry Tingle has said the city could have a new $18 million city hall for a net expenditure of about $5 million.

Project advocates, including the Citrus Heights Chamber of Commerce, argue that the Dignity Health facility would bring new jobs and help diversify the city’s economic base.

Opponents say they would welcome medical offices, but not at the Fountain Square site. They want to preserve what they say is a true civic center with the City Hall and Police Department at Fountain Square, and the Citrus Heights Community Center building and the post office across the street.

They also are willing to support construction of a new city hall – at Fountain Square – and say they will ask the City Council to postpone its decision for a year to study other funding options.

Dignity Health responded to The Bee’s query about such a delay with a written statement, saying, “The proposed Dignity Health medical office building will increase access to physicians, provide high quality medical services to Citrus Heights residents, and strengthen the city’s economy by providing new jobs and new business to the community. We appreciate our working relationship with the city. It would be unfortunate if there was a delay in the process.”

Although some project opponents are loath to see the existing city hall buildings replaced, others agree with city officials that they do not meet the city’s needs.

“I don’t disagree that the buildings need to be replaced,” said Tonya Wagner, president of the Residents Empowerment Association of Citrus Heights, or REACH, made up of representatives of the city’s 11 neighborhood associations. “I understand that they need to be replaced rather than repaired.”

Wagner said she believes there are funding options that would allow the city to preserve the integrity of the civic center. “From the number of people I’ve talked to,” she said, “I don’t believe they would be opposed to a sales tax increase.”

City officials say the deal with Dignity Health would enable Citrus Heights to build a new city hall without going into debt, but Schaefer said the option of a bond issue should be explored.

Schaefer, president of the Park Oaks Neighborhood Association, said he decided to actively oppose the city hall relocation after fielding more than 100 phone calls from residents upset about the project. A major concern, he said, is increased traffic that would be generated by the medical office building.

A traffic study released by the city indicates that the facility would result in a net increase of 116 morning peak hour trips, 154 evening peak hour trips and 2,200 daily trips at the Fountain Square site. To reduce the impact of the additional traffic, the study recommends increasing the length of the eastbound left-turn lane on Greenback Lane and modifying traffic signal timings.

Project opponents also called for more transparency regarding the proposed financial agreement between the city and Dignity Health. Schaefer said he would like to see the appraisal for the Fountain Square property.

He also is concerned about the proposed City Hall site on Antelope Road, saying a portion of the property is in a floodplain.

The Save City Hall activists say response to their petition drive has been positive. Resident Susan Howell said she had gathered 200 signatures in recent days. Of the people she approached, only five declined to sign, she said.

The group is encouraging residents to download petitions from www.savecitrusheightscityhall.com, to express their views during hearings on the project before the Planning Commission on July 9 and the City Council, July 24. They also have scheduled a rally at Rusch Park from noon to 2 p.m. July 20.

Copies of the environmental and traffic studies for the medical office building and a relocated city hall may be viewed at www.citrusheights.net. CDs and printed copies of the documents also are available at City Hall.

Call The Bee’s Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

Read more articles by Cathy Locke

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