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Planning Commission votes 5-1 in favor of 260-home development in Citrus Heights

Citrus Heights Planning Commission, Watt Communities, Mitchell Farms
Citrus Heights Planning Commissioners listen Wednesday as a spokesman for Watt Communities addresses questions about a 260-home development proposed off Arcadia Drive. // CH Sentinel

Updated July 24, 11:05 a.m.–
Sentinel staff report–
Following a more than two-hours-long planning commission meeting and public hearing on Wednesday night, commissioners voted in favor of a proposal by Watt Communities to build 260 new homes on a 56-acre chunk of largely undeveloped land in Citrus Heights, near Sunrise Boulevard and Greenback Lane. The project now goes before the city council to receive final approval.

“This project’s probably the best thing that’s happened to Citrus Heights since becoming a city,” said Commissioner Jack Duncan, summarizing some of the project’s positives before somewhat paradoxically voting against the project. “We need these houses; we need ’em really bad, and it really is gonna make that area, and the people that buy these homes are gonna have good access to shopping and different things.”

Despite Duncan’s lone “no” vote, commissioners voted 5-1 in favor of the project, with Commissioner Marcel Weiland absent from the meeting. Although questioning some aspects of the plan, commissioners spoke favorably of various aspects of the development, most notably the proposal’s distinctive 23-acre park and trails area winding through the project.

Citrus Heights, Mitchell Farms
Proposed 260-unit Mitchell Farms development.

“I like the park in the middle — I think that is just a phenomenal use of that area,” said Planning Commission Chairman Russell Blair during comments made just prior to the vote on Wednesday. “It’s really neat that it’s something that by default almost had to be there because of the flood zone — but what a great resource that’s going to be available.”

Blair’s comment referred to a 100-year flood plain associated with Arcade Creek, which prohibits development in the middle of the project area. Under an agreement with the Sunrise Recreation and Parks District, the 23-acre area would become part of the parks district and would be maintained using funds from a property tax assessment fee paid annually by each homeowner in the development.

According to a city staff report, the development would have an average density of 8.1 homes per acre, with housing spread out into three general communities and three types of housing targeted towards different buyers. Homes would range in size from about 1,400-square-feet to 2,100-square-feet, and would include 78 standard single-family homes, 110 “alley-loaded” units, and 72 “patio” units, which are groups of 2 to 8 single-family units accessed from a central alley.

Commissioner Tim Schaefer, who stated he was on the fence about the project prior to voting yes, said he had concerns about the 260 homes making for a “very, very congested project.” Commissioner Leah Cox also noted the lot sizes were too small for her personal liking, but said “there is a large group of people who want low maintenance, who are looking for this type of development,” citing a popular 326-home development called Capital Village in Rancho Cordova.

Projected pricing for the homes was not discussed during the meeting, but Kevin Webb, Northern California division president for Watt Communities, previously told The Sentinel he expected prices to range from the “high 2’s to low 4’s.”

A homeowner’s association is proposed to govern the entire development, with the association being responsible for maintaining private alleys and the city maintaining primary access streets going through the development.

Homes in the southern portion of the development would be accessible through two entrances on Arcadia Drive, which would include installation of a new roundabout entrance, while homes in the northern and eastern portions of the development would enter on Fair Oaks Boulevard, just south of the Heather Downs apartment complex.

Related: New projects will likely bring hundreds of new homes, units to Citrus Heights

A vehicle bridge that was initially proposed to connect the northern and southern housing villages was removed from the plans due to concerns about “cut-through” traffic and the developer discovering significantly more costs associated with building the bridge, according to David Temblador, of the Sacramento-based law firm Harrison, Temblador, Hungerford & Johnson LLP, who spoke on behalf of Watt Communities during the meeting on Wednesday.

Commissioner Duncan cited the decision to remove the bridge as one of his reasons for opposing the project, saying “in my own conscience I cannot approve this project with the changes they’ve been making on this, even though it is a really good project.” He also cited proposed speed bumps and the lack of a new crosswalk being installed on Arcadia Drive as reasons for his decision to vote against the project.

No comments from the public were made at a public hearing held during Wednesday’s meeting, aside from several comments made by Temblador on behalf of Watt Communities.

The proposal is expected to be heard by the city council for final approval in August, according to Senior Planner Casey Kempenaar. If approved by the council, the developer estimates work would ideally begin next spring, with new homes being completed in 2020.

Compared to the gradual increase in the city’s housing stock over the past five years, the project would rapidly boost the number of new housing units being built in the Citrus Heights. According to a draft Environmental Impact Report for the project, only 79 new housing units were constructed in Citrus Heights between 2013 and 2017.

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