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3 public hearings to be held by Citrus Heights Planning Commission

Development proposal under review sign
File photo, development proposal sign. // CH Sentinel

Alec Pronk contributed to this report–
Planning commissioners are slated to hold three public hearings this Wednesday, with proposals including a new 8,700-square-foot shopping building on Auburn Boulevard, amendments addressing redevelopment of existing commercial centers, and a zoning ordinance to allow flexibility in building housing on small lots.

New shopping area
First up on the commission’s Aug. 22 agenda is a long-awaited proposal for the construction of an 8,700-square-foot multi-tenant building on one of the vacant pads in front of Costco and Walmart, an area known as the Stock Ranch Plaza.  According to a staff report included in the commission’s agenda packet, the planned building would house at least four retail shops or restaurants and would be situated across from the existing Applebee’s, backset slightly from Auburn Boulevard.

The proposed construction is one of about 10 buildings planned for the vacant pads in the Plaza, which received a general go-ahead from the city last year pending some traffic flow modifications in the plaza. However, planning commission documents indicate the property owner, California C & S Properties, has faced difficulty with the city’s aesthetic requirement for the plaza that requires the back sides of any buildings facing the street be at least 60% transparent glass — a policy put in place to ensure new developments fit the area and are designed to have their back side “not appear to be the ‘back’ of the building.”

An amended policy would drop the requirement to 50% glass, which would alleviate concerns raised by the applicant about structural stability, energy efficiency, and unsightly issues if clear glass were used where stock rooms and restrooms are often placed in the rear of buildings. Commissioners will consider both adopting the amended glass policy and approving a design review permit for the multi-tenant building.

Shopping center subdivisions, redevelopment
Planning commissioners will also hold a public hearing regarding a pair of proposed amendments related to existing shopping centers, which make up 480 acres of Citrus Heights and are “often dominated by wide parking fields and considered underdeveloped,” according to a staff report included in the 138-page agenda packet.

The report says the city has recently seen an “increased interest” in subdividing large shopping centers, with owners typically intending to sell off a portion of an existing center to another party. City staff argue that redevelopment becomes more challenging when more owners are involved in a redevelopment project.

As such, staff recommend the commission adopt an amendment to the city’s General Plan, adding a policy that would “Discourage the creation of any new parcels within existing commercial centers, if such creation might hinder the viability and/or future redevelopment of the center.”

A related zoning amendment is also proposed that would require commercial subdivisions to include “a proposed plan for the future development of the resulting subdivision,” if a vacant parcel would be created by the subdivision. Staff say the zoning amendment will allow city planners to properly evaluate the effects of new commercial subdivisions and ensure any long-term redevelopment options “are not hindered by new subdivisions.”

Proposed ordinance to allow housing flexibility
The final proposal is a zoning ordinance designed to encourage housing development on smaller lots and expand affordable housing options by allowing for ownership of single units in multi-family and commercial zones.

According to a planning division staff report, options for new housing are becoming increasingly scarce due to Citrus Heights being 98% built-out. While the report says there are “numerous vacant or underutilized multi-family or commercial parcels that would allow development of housing,” it also states the majority of those sites are irregular shaped or small, which “limits the feasibility and desirability of conventional multi-family development such as apartments.”

Due to those current limitations, staff are recommending commissioners approve a new zoning ordinance to facilitate the development of “small lot housing products,” which have risen in popularity among home buyers.

Planning staff cited a Sacramento Bee article as an example of similar zoning regulations working to increase affordable housing in suburban Sacramento, by offering home buyers the benefits of a suburban lifestyle without the added price tag of a large lot. According to the article, small lot housing tends to attract baby boomers looking to downsize and also millennials searching for their first home.

Document: see the full agenda packet for the Aug. 22 meeting

As part of the proposal, city staff developed a set of guidelines to increase small lot housing while preserving the “existing urban fabric.” Multiple comparison tables are provided in the report to differentiate small lot housing from traditional single-family homes — with distinctions including buildings being allowed to be two feet closer together and have a maximum height of 40 or 50 feet, as opposed to 30 feet for single-family homes.

Small lot housing would also be allowed in high-density residential areas and commercial zones, as long as they meet certain design guidelines. Major required design features include a 250-square-foot, semi-private outdoor area for each unit, two parking spaces per unit, and various aesthetic requirements to ensure the homes don’t look out of place in existing neighborhoods. Blueprints and visual examples are included in the commission’s agenda packet.

The planning commission will meet at 7 p.m. on Aug. 22 at City Hall, located at 6360 Fountain Square Drive.

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