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City Council votes 3-2 against plan for 94 homes at Sylvan Corners

An image included in Planning Commission documents shows a site layout for a proposed housing development at Sylvan Corners.

Updated 9:49 a.m., Oct. 16th–
By Phillip Pesola– In a rare move Thursday night, the Citrus Heights City Council voted to block approval of a new housing development that would have built 94 new homes at Sylvan Corners.

Two council members voted in favor of the project, while three were in opposition, citing concerns about increased traffic congestion, safety for kids walking to school, isolation of the new development from other neighborhoods, and opposition from some residents.

The council’s vote rejected a 4-1 recommendation from the Planning Commission, which voted in favor of the project last month.

Alison Bermudez, Senior Planner for the city, along with Michael LaFortune of Woodside Homes, the project developer, presented details of the proposed plan during Thursday’s council meeting. The project aimed to develop a subdivision on an 11.3-acre site, formerly home to Sylvan Middle School, which was purchased by the city in 2019.

During a public hearing held prior to the vote on Thursday, Forrest Allen, a long-time resident, expressed concern about increased traffic on streets in the area of the proposed development, which he said are already heavily congested with traffic from nearby schools. He also said the development would not fit with the city’s General Plan.

“I would say vote no on it, no matter what the state is actually trying to tell you to produce more family homes,” Allen told the council. “It’s not viable.”

Natalee Price echoed the same concerns, emphasizing the importance of preserving neighborhoods, and pointing out that the new homes would be isolated from other neighborhoods. Price serves on the Planning Commission and was the sole vote opposing the project there, but said her comments were not being shared in her role as a commissioner.

In closing her comments, she said, “Some people ask me, Natalee, why are you wasting your time standing up and talking about a project that is a done deal? Well, call me a romantic, but I don’t believe that this is a done deal, and I believe in we the people, and a council that represents the voice of the people.”

Following public comments, council members shared their thoughts on the project.

Councilmember Jayna Karpinski-Costa said she did “not find that this project offers an enhanced community benefit,” and said it did not follow the city’s General Plan goals.

“There’s nothing about this project that benefits the current residents of Citrus Heights. All the design features discussed for all practical purposes benefit only the people that live there,” she said.

Speaking in support of the project, Councilmember Porsche Middleton acknowledged concerns raised, but emphasized the need for the city to provide opportunities for new residents.

“It’s time for us to grow, and growing is painful, but we have to grow,” said Middleton. “We have to be a little bit more courageous, and a little bit more thoughtful about what it is we’re trying to attract into our communities… so we can continue to grow and thrive.”

Immediately preceding the vote, Mayor Tim Schaefer said there were “some really compelling arguments tonight,” and said it was a difficult decision to make.

“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,” he said.

Councilmembers Middleton and MariJane Lopez-Taff voted in favor of a resolution which would have adopted a General Plan map amendment and allowed development to move forward. Mayor Schaefer, Vice Mayor Bret Daniels, and Councilmember Karpinski-Costa voted against the resolution, effectively stopping the project from moving forward.

In response to questions from the council following the vote, city staff said the same project application would not be able to be brought to the city for reconsideration until one year has passed, but that other proposals can be considered meanwhile.

As previously reported, the site at Sylvan Corners was formerly home to Sylvan Middle School until it was demolished in 2016. The city subsequently purchased the 11.3-acre site from the San Juan Unified School District in 2019 for $3.4 million and later agreed to sell it to Woodside Homes for $4.17 million, pending a due diligence period.

Woodside Homes was the only developer to submit an offer on the property during a 120-day offering period in 2020, which at the time had prompted some disappointment from council members who preferred mixed-use or other development at the site.

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