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Lawsuit over Citrus Heights city hall, medical building settled

Rose Garden at Citrus Heights Civic Center (site of the old Fountain Square Nursery) was nationally recognized but lost to the new development. As part of a new legal settlement, the city has committed to working with the community to try to develop a replacement rose garden, with volunteer support, elsewhere in the city. Photographed Tuesday, April 22, 2003. Sacramento Bee / Owen Brewer
Rose Garden at Citrus Heights Civic Center (site of the old Fountain Square Nursery) was nationally recognized but lost to the new development. As part of a new legal settlement, the city has committed to working with the community to try to develop a replacement rose garden, with volunteer support, elsewhere in the city. Photographed Tuesday, April 22, 2003. Sacramento Bee / Owen Brewer Sacramento Bee file photo

A Citrus Heights group that challenged plans for a medical office building on the city’s former civic center site announced that it has settled its lawsuit against the city and developers.

Preserve Our Civic Center failed to persuade Dignity Health to build a two-story rather than a three-story building at Greenback Lane and Fountain Square Drive. But spokesman Norman Hill said the settlement reached March 4 includes features that will reduce the project’s impact on neighboring residents and traffic on Greenback Lane.

As part of the medical building’s construction, he said, a row of coastal redwood trees will be planted along the site’s western border to screen the building from the adjoining neighborhood. The developer and Dignity Health also agreed to increase the building setback from Greenback Lane to 30 feet, up from the original 20 feet, to reduce its visual impact on Greenback Lane.

To accommodate increased traffic generated by the medical offices, the city agreed to lengthen the left-turn lane from eastbound Greenback Lane onto Fountain Square Drive by four car lengths. Hill said the city had intended to extend the turn lane by only one car length.

Under the settlement, Preserve Our Civic Center will be reimbursed $67,500 for legal fees it incurred challenging the adequacy of the city’s environmental analysis of the project. City Attorney Ruthann Ziegler said the city of Citrus Heights will pay one-third of the amount and the other parties named in the lawsuit will be responsible for the remainder.

The settlement includes provisions related to the new city hall under construction on a 10-acre site at the north end of Fountain Square Drive at Stock Ranch Road. The city will require larger vehicles leaving the utility yard at the site to exit only from the northern driveway, so as not to interfere with traffic on Fountain Square Drive.

The former city hall and civic center occupied buildings and grounds that were previously home to Fountain Square Nursery. Many of the residents who opposed relocating city hall to make way for the medical office building cited the loss of the rose garden that had been a centerpiece of the site. As part of the settlement, the city has committed to working with the community to try to develop a replacement rose garden, with volunteer support, elsewhere in the city.

“I find it disappointing that it took a lawsuit to get these public interest features added to the project,” Hill said. “The city should have made these changes on its own before approving the project.”

Brooke Burgess, a spokeswoman for Dignity Health, said that with the lawsuit settled, plans are being finalized for the medical office building. The 68,727-square-foot building is expected to house 50 physicians and 120 support staff. Burgess said it has not been determined when construction will begin, but it will take about two years to complete the building once the project breaks ground.

Construction of the new $22 million city hall began last fall. If the weather cooperates, it should be ready to occupy by September, said Monica Alejandrez, assistant to the city manager. “It’s on schedule and on budget,” she said.

City offices currently are housed at the Grand Oaks shopping center, 7927 Auburn Blvd.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy

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