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Citrus Heights Messenger

Council Rejects Plan for Housing at Sylvan Corners

Oct 19, 2023 11:28AM ● By Shaunna Boyd

CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA (MPG) - At the October 12 meeting, the Citrus Heights City Council considered approval of the Sylvan Corners housing development proposed by Woodside Homes. The City’s Planning Commission recently reviewed the project plan and recommended Council approval on a 4-1 vote.

The 11.34-acre project site is the previous location of Sylvan Middle School, on the west side of Auburn Blvd. at the intersection of Old Auburn Rd and Auburn Blvd./Sylvan Rd. In 2017, San Juan Unified School District declared the site to be surplus land after moving the middle school to a different location. The property is in a central location within the city, so in order to have control over its future development, the City of Citrus Heights bought the land in 2019 for $3.4 million, plus interest and fees. The intent was to find a suitable buyer who would work closely with the City on a development that aligned with City goals.

The City put the property up for sale and received one offer, from Woodside Homes. In 2021, the City entered into a purchase agreement with Woodside Homes, with the final purchase price to be determined by the number of residential lots constructed. The developer has proposed 94 single-family homes on the site, with 70 traditional-style homes on lots ranging from 3,000 to 5,113 sq. ft., and 24 alley-loaded homes on lots from 2,625 to 5,725 sq. ft. The estimated total purchase price would be $4.22 million, with the money from the sale going into the City’s General Fund.

Of the 94 proposed homes, 14 would be designated as affordable housing units to be sold to lower-income qualified buyers (with an approximate income of $85,000). They would remain as affordable housing for a minimum of 45 years, with the City overseeing any resales of those properties to ensure buyers’ income eligibility. To offset the costs of that monitoring program, the City would collect 3% of the sales price for each of those affordable housing units sold by Woodside Homes.

In addition to the 94 homes, the proposed subdivision would also include amenities such as a small passive recreation area for outdoor gathering, a number of open-space lots to preserve some of the existing oak trees, and a large open-space stormwater detention basin designed with greenery, fencing, and walking paths.

Mike LaFortune, vice president of land acquisition and development at Woodside Homes, spoke during the Public Hearing, stating that they had been working on this project for a long time with City staff: “We are very honored and excited to bring this residential community to the city.” With a choices of home designs and sizes, LaFortune said their homes will sell at various price points, making housing accessible for a “wide variety of buyers.” 

Forrest Allan, who has lived near the project site for 50 years, also spoke during the Public Hearing, stating that the project was “not a viable plan for our neighborhood.” He said that the area is already very congested with heavy traffic along Auburn Blvd. and along adjacent neighborhood streets due to the many schools in the area. Building 94 homes on that site will increase the traffic even more, which will “decrease our quality of life as residents,” said Allan.

Natalie Price also spoke against the project, stating that she was appearing on behalf of community members in her capacity as president of REACH and Neighborhood Area 10, and not as a member of the Planning Commission (she was the dissenting vote on the commission when they reviewed this project).  Price said that she agrees Citrus Heights needs to do their part to support affordable housing, but “the voices from the community…and that discerning voice deep inside of me says it’s not this development and not this corner.”

While this project would help the City meet housing goals, Price said it goes against other policies in the General Plan, such as preserving neighborhoods and supporting businesses. The new neighborhood would be stuck in a commercial center, isolated from other residential areas. And she said that the lack of yard space in the development and the proximity to the heavy traffic along Auburn Blvd. would not offer adequate quality of life for the people who would eventually live there.

Citrus Heights resident Donna Brady submitted a written comment opposing the project. She said traffic congestion along Auburn Blvd. will be even worse if the project goes forward, and she would rather see the land used for community facilities that would benefit Citrus Heights youth and families.

During Council Comments, Councilmember Jayna Karpinski-Costa said, “I do not find that this project offers an enhanced community benefit.” She agreed that the project would increase traffic in the area, and that the future residents of the subdivision would be isolated and experience a lower quality of life due to living in that location: “Inadequate yard space with no room for family or neighbors to get together, no room for barbeques, even family dogs, vegetables or flower garden.”

“I find the proposed project is detrimental to the public health, safety, and convenience, and welfare of the city,” said Councilmember Karpinski-Costa. She also suggested that the project goes against the Auburn Blvd. Specific Plan, which designates the project site as part of the Sylvan Corners Village Square district. The land use concept for that district is a pedestrian friendly shopping environment that reestablishes Sylvan Corners as civic, social, and commercial focal point of the city. Karpinski-Costa said that the proposed housing project “wipes out the Auburn Blvd. Plan.”

Vice Mayor Brett Daniels agreed that he didn’t see an enhanced community benefit from this project. He also expressed “deep, deep concerns about this area and the safety of people who live here,” due to the houses that would be built along Auburn Blvd. He said that “a vehicle going 45 mph travels 66 ft in one second” and would wipe out the proposed wooden fencing along that corridor. Vice Mayor Daniels said that he couldn’t support the tentative subdivision map as currently proposed, unless there were changes made to increase safety for those homes along Auburn Blvd.  

Councilmember Porsche Middleton said, “I hear the concerns of the community, and I understand it.”  But she pointed out that similar concerns are raised each time a new housing development is considered. While she understands the concerns of long-time residents, Middleton said the City also has to make room for new people to live and work in Citrus Heights: “We have to build more housing in order to keep our communities vibrant. … We have to grow.”

And she said that it’s important to offer different housing options, because not everyone wants to care for a large yard. Some people might prefer a common picnic area landscaped and maintained by the HOA: “For us to singlehandedly…say that this isn’t what other people want is inherently wrong.”

Mayor Tim Schaefer noted there were some “really compelling arguments tonight.” He said, “I’m here to represent the community, and it’s a tough decision, because there’s a lot of things I like about this project, but it’s just not quite enough for me to support it.”

When considering whether to approve the Woodside Homes tentative subdivision map for the Sylvan Corners development, Council voted 2-3, with Karpinski-Costa, Daniels, and Schaefer dissenting. With that vote, the project was denied.

Woodside Homes was the only developer that offered to purchase and develop the Sylvan Corner property, so the future development of the site is unknown at this time.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for October 26.

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