Citrus Heights medical building, city hall relocation proposals headed to council

A proposal to relocate Citrus Heights’ city hall to make way for a medical office building won the support of the city Planning Commission and is headed to the City Council.

Following a three-hour hearing Wednesday night, the Planning Commission recommended approval of the environmental studies for construction of a three-story medical office building at Greenback Lane and Fountain Square Drive, the current civic center site, and construction of a new city hall building on Antelope Road. The commission also backed general plan and zoning changes necessary for the projects to go forward.

Support for the project has come largely from the city’s business community, while residents have organized in opposition, launching a “Save City Hall” campaign.

The three-story, 68,727-square-foot medical office building is proposed by Dignity Health to house 50 physicians and 120 support staff.

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 payments Dignity Health would make over 15 years for lease of the Fountain Square property, plus anticipated savings in building operation and maintenance costs, city officials have said Citrus Heights could have a new $18 million city hall or a net expenditure of about $5 million.

Representatives of local business groups urged support for the project, saying the medical offices would help diversify the local economy, reducing the city’s reliance on the retail sector. Kathilyn Carpenter, executive director of the Sunrise MarketPlace business improvement district, said the Dignity Health facility could attract businesses to Citrus Heights and draw shoppers from outside the city. For local businesses to survive, she said, “we need to have a regional presence.”

Valerie Piotrowski, president and CEO of the Citrus Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber viewed Fountain Square as the ideal site for the medical office building.

Most residents speaking in opposition to the projects said they would welcome Dignity Health to the city, but they urged the health care firm to consider property in need of redevelopment, such as the site of the former OSH store at Greenback Lane and San Juan Avenue, or the former Capital Nursery at Sunrise Boulevard and Madison Avenue.

Barb Miller said she supported Citrus Heights cityhood in 1997 based on promises that the community would have a Police Department and a designated city services area.

Several residents questioned the proposed site of a new city hall at 7625 Antelope Road, in the midst of a residential area between Sunrise and Auburn boulevards, noting that a portion of the site is in a floodplain. They also argued that access via public transportation would be difficult because Regional Transit buses do not run on Antelope Road.

City officials said both the city hall building and adjacent parking would be outside the floodplain, and the city is working with Regional Transit to provide bus service on Antelope Road.

Bill Van Duker, who was active in Citrus Heights incorporation efforts, said a new city hall is needed, and he said he strongly supports economic diversification. But he said he was conflicted about the proposals.

Van Duker said he was concerned about proposed changes to general plan goals that include concentrating government uses at “a civic center complex that provides residents and businesses easy and efficient access to a range of government services.” The general plan, Van Duker said, “is a foundational document for our city.”

To allow relocation of the city hall, the Planning Commission recommended eliminating reference to a civic center complex from the general plan goal.

The projects, including a discussion the proposed lease agreement with Dignity Health and funding for a new city hall, are scheduled for a public hearing July 24 before the City Council.