With opponents threatening a lawsuit, the Citrus Heights City Council voted 3-2 Thursday night to continue the proposal to move Citrus Heights City Hall to make way for a medical office building to its Aug. 14 meeting.
If approved, all city buildings on the northwest corner of Greenback Lane and Fountain Square Drive, except the Police Department, would be demolished. They would be replaced with a three-story, 68,727-square-foot medical office building proposed to house 50 Dignity Health physicians and 120 support staff. The city would construct a new city hall building on a city-owned parcel at 7625 Antelope Road, in a largely residential area between Sunrise and Auburn boulevards.
Tim Schaefer, coordinator of opponents called Preserve Our Civic Center, said if the project is approved, a lawsuit would be filed on the grounds that there was an inadequate study of the environmental impacts of the respective projects on the Fountain Square and Antelope Road sites.
Opponents on Thursday presented petitions bearing 1,350 signatures of people stating that they do not want city hall moved from Fountain Square.
Thursday’s discussion followed nearly a year of community meetings that began with a proposal to construct both the medical office building and a new city hall on the Fountain Square site. After residents raised concerns about increased traffic and parking limitations, it was determined that the civic center site was not large enough to accommodate both buildings. The proposal was then presented to move city hall and allow the medical office building to occupy the civic center site.
Dignity Health officials said they have spent eight years seeking property for additional offices. With no room to expand at its Coyle Avenue site in Carmichael, the health care firm focused its search on the Citrus Heights area. Brian Ivie, president and CEO of Dignity Health’s Mercy San Juan Medical Center, said 5,000 Citrus Heights residents received medical services at the Coyle Avenue offices last year, accounting for 24,000 visits. The expansion, he said, is driven by an anticipated demand for health care services due to an aging population and implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
At the same time, Citrus Heights is faced with replacing aging city office buildings, constructed in 1977 to house a nursery and retail shops. Under the terms of the proposed ground lease, Dignity Health would pay the city a minimum of $6.9 million over a 15-year period. Along with anticipated savings in building operation and maintenance costs, city officials say Citrus Heights could have a new $18 million city hall for a net expenditure of about $5 million.
Business groups, including the Citrus Heights Chamber of Commerce and Sunrise MarketPlace business improvement district, praised the project, saying the medical offices would help diversify the local economy, reducing the city’s reliance on the retail sector. They argued that the Dignity Health facility could attract other medical-related businesses to Citrus Heights and draw shoppers from outside the area.
But the project drew opposition from residents, some of whom suggested the City Council was reneging on the promises that came with cityhood, which included concentrating government uses in a civic center complex that provides residents and businesses with easy access to a range of government services.
Many of the opponents acknowledged the need for a new city hall building and said they would welcome Dignity Health to the city. But they argued that the city would be better served if Dignity Health built on one of several sites in Citrus Heights that are in need of redevelopment.
Editor’s note: Previous versions of this story incorrectly identified Tim Schaefer. We regret the error.
Call The Bee’s Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.