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New map shows proposed 55-acre housing development in Citrus Heights

Development, Watt Communities, Citrus Heights
An updated map showing a 261-home development proposed off Arcadia Drive in Citrus Heights. // Image credit: City of Citrus Heights

Sentinel staff report–
While California faces an ongoing housing shortage, one developer is slowly making progress on plans to bring several hundred new housing units to a 55-acre chunk of undeveloped land in Citrus Heights, near Sunrise Boulevard and Greenback Lane.

The housing proposal was submitted to the city by Watt Communities last November and includes 76 new single family homes, 72 “cluster units,” and 113 “alley loaded units.” The development would be situated with Montage Apartments on its northeastern border and Arcadia Drive and the Citrus Town Center to the southwest.

In an update to the city council last month, Citrus Heights Planning Manager Colleen McDuffee said an environmental impact report (EIR) is currently being conducted for the proposal, which includes specialized studies assessing potential impacts on traffic, noise, air quality, and other aspects required by the California Environmental Quality Act. She said a draft report will be available for public review “before the end of the year,” after which public hearings and votes on the proposal are expected to be held by the planning commission and city council in spring 2018.

In comments during the council meeting, Mayor Jeff Slowey said he recently met with the developer and is looking forward to the project moving ahead, calling it “a great addition for the city.”

“I mean, let’s be honest, there’s a housing crisis out there — we don’t have a lot of brand new homes to sell here in town because we’re built out,” said Slowey. “And where else are you going to find a development that’s gonna have 20 acres of open space?”

A map of the proposal presented to council members last month shows proposed housing separated into three general communities, with a large swath down the middle remaining undeveloped due to a 100-year flood plain associated with Arcade Creek. Prices for the homes are expected to range from the “high 2’s to low 4’s,” with sizes ranging from 1,400-square-feet to 2,500-square-feet, according to Kevin Webb, Northern California division president for Watt Communities.

The map also shows three entrances to the housing development, with a pair of access roads off Arcadia Drive and another access road off Fair Oaks Boulevard.

Asking whether a roundabout could be seen on the map at one of the two entrances on Arcadia Drive, Councilman Bret Daniels replied “sweet!” upon hearing confirmation from McDuffee. His reaction was tempered somewhat after learning there would be no fountain in the middle of the roundabout, however.

See prior story for additional details: Watt Communities proposes huge 261-unit development in Citrus Heights

As previously reported on The Sentinel in December, the potential for a development proposal of this size is rare for Citrus Heights, which is almost entirely built out as a city. Nick Lagura, an associate planner with the City of Citrus Heights, called the proposal’s location “the last large development site in the city.”

The 55-acre parcel has been owned by Ted Mitchell, whose family purchased 160 acres in Citrus Heights for $1600 in gold coins over 100 years ago, according to an interview published by the city’s History & Arts Commission. Mitchell, now 91 years old, is believed to be the city’s longest-living resident and still owns a significant amount of acreage in the area, including the land where the Citrus Town Center sits.

Related: Citrus Heights’ longest living resident reflects on history of city

Watt Communities has worked with Mitchell in the past, purchasing property from him on Antelope Road in order to build the recently completed 46-home AutumnWood development in Citrus Heights, near Interstate 80. Webb said discussions with Mitchell about the latest project began in 2015.

Community questions
Unlike some development proposals in the city, like the nearby proposed ARCO gas station and car wash on Sunrise Boulevard and Sungarden Drive, the housing proposal has not generated any organized opposition.

Addressing a handful of questions raised by residents at a neighborhood meeting at last December, Webb said the development would not include low-income housing, although he said prices would be “affordable.” McDuffee also confirmed the city does not have low-income housing requirements for new developments in Citrus Heights.

Other questions included “where are the grandkids going to park?” “what if there was a fire?” and if the units would be so close you could “reach your hand out and touch the next house.”

Webb said spacing between homes would differ from lot to lot, with the goal to “make more use out of less space” without becoming too crowded. He later told The Sentinel that density is planned for 8 to 13 units per acre, while in comparison he’s built up to 18 units per acre — which he said becomes too dense.

For parking, Webb said the development is planned for one-and-a-half parking spots per unit, meaning a 30-unit community would have 45 parking spots at the street — in addition to two garage spaces.

“We’re over-parking the project,” said developer, comparing the proposal to some in Southern California with limited parking. “We’ve done it wrong before, so we want to be careful.”

Another question was raised by Councilman Daniels who said he was concerned about the “riff-raff” associated with the bus stop on Arcadia Drive. He noted the proposal called for homes facing outward towards Arcadia with only a three-foot wall separating them from the street, rather than facing the homes away from the street.

Webb responded that facing the homes outward would “help prevent crime” and give a more welcoming look, rather than facing the homes inward and having a tall wall along the street — as is the case with the AutumnWood development on Antelope Road.

Asked about similarly designed communities in the area for comparison, Webb referenced KB Home’s Marquee development off Fair Oaks Boulevard. He also said AutumnWood has similar home elevations as the new proposal.

What do you think about Watt Communities’ proposal? Have your view published as a letter to the editor: click here.

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