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Citrus Heights approves overlay ban on gas stations, car washes near mall

The former Marie Callender’s restaurant on Sunrise Boulevard has sat vacant since closing in 2019. // M. Hazlip

Sentinel staff report–
Amid interest from ARCO and Waterfly car wash to redevelop a pair of properties with vacant restaurants on Sunrise Boulevard, the Citrus Heights City Council on Thursday voted 5-0 in favor of banning new gas stations, car washes and other auto-intensive uses in the Greenback-Sunrise commercial corridor.

Several council members expressed reservations about telling private property owners what they could and couldn’t do with their property, but ultimately sided with the city’s vision and feedback from residents in favor of making the Sunrise MarketPlace business improvement district a destination-spot for diners and shoppers.

The “zoning overlay” will prevent businesses like car washes and gas stations from opening in the Sunrise MarketPlace, without affecting such kinds of businesses that are already open or in existence prior to Dec. 1, 2022. The ban will cover the commercial areas within the Sunrise MarketPlace, which roughly extends along Sunrise Boulevard from Madison Avenue to just north of Greenback Lane, as well as a portion of Greenback Lane from Birdcage Street to Fair Oaks Boulevard.

During a public hearing held during the Oct. 27 meeting, several residents and representatives spoke in favor of the overlay ban, while two people including the property owner of the former China Buffet spoke against the ban, with the owner saying its passage will mean continued homeless problems associated with the long-vacant building. He said a lease had already been signed to have Waterfly Car Wash open a new location at the site and expressed frustration that the city would seek to impose a ban after he had worked to attract a tenant for a use that was acceptable at the time.

Councilman Bret Daniels initially made comments saying he was unsure he could support the proposal due to “this being America, you should be able to do with your property what you want to do with it,” however, he later sided with his fellow council members in supporting the zoning overlay. Councilman Steve Miller and Vice Mayor Tim Schaefer expressed similar concerns, as did other council members.

“As council, we have to leverage and understand what the community wants and what’s been said and what they desire, versus what a property owner wants and needs to have done with his property,” Mayor Porsche Middleton said, in voting for the overlay ban.

The mayor and other council members acknowledged concerns from the owner of the vacant China Buffet property, and agreed to put an item on a future agenda to look into funding options for assisting distressed properties within the Sunrise MarketPlace. The buffet has been closed since 2018.

The approved overlay ban restricts five specific uses within the Sunrise MarketPlace, mostly dealing with auto-intensive uses, but including a prohibition on any new personal storage facilities.

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