Site near Citrus Heights’ civic center offered for new city hall

Citrus Heights officials say an offer of property near the city’s civic center as the site for a new city hall may lessen opposition to a plan that would allow Dignity Health to build a medical office building on the current city hall site at Greenback Lane and Fountain Square Drive.

City officials last week announced that a 10.9-acre parcel north of the post office on Fountain Square Drive has been offered as a new city hall site. A proposal that would allow its construction will be presented for public comment at an informational meeting Wednesday.

The move would allow the city to continue to offer services at a central location, down the street from the Police Department and Community Center, while allowing Dignity Health to construct a three-story medical office building.

Monica Alejandrez, assistant to the city manager, said the property, which extends along the east side of Fountain Square Drive to Stock Ranch Road, was offered to the city by Rancho Cordova-based Capital Partners Development Co.

The developer proposes to build a single-story city hall building and to sell the property and the building to the city. Based on preliminary discussions, Alejandrez said, the total cost for the property and the building would be approximately $18 million, about the same as the projected cost of constructing a two-story building on city-owned property on Antelope Road, between Sunrise and Auburn boulevards.

“A one-story building is less expensive to build than a two-story building,” Alejandrez said, adding that the proposals have the same square footage.

A spokesman for Capital Partners Development Co. was out of town last week and could not be reached for comment.

The City Council will review the proposal Sept. 25 and consider whether to pursue Capital Partners’ offer.

The Capital Partners site is about 6 acres larger than the city’s Antelope Road parcel. Alejandrez noted that one reason residents cited in opposing the Antelope Road location was that it would not allow for a future expansion of city facilities. The Capital Partners property is large enough to accommodate the city’s equipment storage yard, as well other amenities residents might want.

“It could be a park, or it could be a performing-arts center,” Alejandrez said.

City officials a year ago unveiled a plan to fund a new city hall and diversify the local economy by allowing Dignity Health to construct a 68,717-square-foot medical office building on the northwest corner of Greenback Lane and Fountain Square Drive. Dignity Health officials said they had spent eight years seeking property for additional offices. With no room to expand at its Coyle Avenue site in Carmichael, the company focused its search on the Citrus Heights area.

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 said 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, support the project. But it has drawn opposition from residents, many of whom object to dismantling of the civic center and decentralization of city services. Concerns were raised about increased traffic generated by a medical office building, as well as placing a new city hall in the midst of a residential area on Antelope Road, at a site that lacks direct access to public transportation.

In July, a group of opponents, Preserve Our Civic Center, presented petitions bearing more than 1,300 signatures of people stating that they did not want city hall moved from Fountain Square. The group announced that if the project were approved, a lawsuit would be filed on the grounds that there was inadequate study of the environmental impacts of the respective projects on the Fountain Square and Antelope Road sites.

Citing the threat of a lawsuit, the City Council voted unanimously last month to take no action on the project and instead directed the city staff to pursue a more extensive environmental study.

Alejandrez said city officials believe the site offered by Capital Partners involves fewer issues than the Antelope Road site. The Capital Partners parcel is zoned for multifamily residential development and has entitlements dating back to 2007 for 160 condominium units. Alejandrez said a city hall would generate less traffic than a condominium development.

Tim Schaefer, coordinator for Preserve Our Civic Center, said he views the latest proposal as a step in the right direction, although it does not alleviate concerns about increased traffic.

“We would prefer to see the medical office building on that (Capital Partners) property than city hall,” Schaefer said. “We’re willing to see what they have to say. We’re always willing to talk about the proposal.”

Beryl Turner-Weeks, a resident of the Stock Ranch neighborhood, across the street from the Capital Partners property, said she received mailed notice of the latest proposal, and remains opposed to a medical office building on the civic center site and relocation of city hall. Turner-Weeks said she favors maintaining the civic center as is and would like to see single-family homes built on the Capital Partners property.