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Guest Opinion: Stunned by council’s vote against 94-home project

By Bill Van Duker–
Last Friday morning I was stunned to learn of the City Council vote that denied the Sylvan Corners subdivision project. And after reviewing the tape of the Council meeting, I was appalled at the reasons put forward as a basis for the denial.

Bill Van Duker

First, the misuse and mis-application of some of the provisions of the General Plan were egregious. As one who has some experience with General Plans (8 years on the City of Citrus Heights Planning Commission and 4 years on the Sacramento County Project Planning Commission which met every week because of the workload), I knew that all of the provisions of a General Plan must be considered in reviewing a project. The opponents to this project selected a few specific provisions and with flawed reasoning, applied them to this project without any consideration of the General Plan as a whole.

If the same reasoning on Thursday night had been prevalent when previous projects were considered, Turner Court, Mitchell Ranch or the Lawrence Avenue development would never have been approved.

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

Second, this decision was a profound slap in the face to the dedicated professionals in the City Planning Department, and the other departments such as Engineering and the CHPD. The rejection of the reports of outside consultants challenges their competencies in the areas in which they are credentialed and, in some cases, licensed. For example, the traffic study showed no reduction in levels of service at nearby intersections because of this development.

This project was also approved by the Fire Department. And the allegation that 94 new homes would impact the level of service from the CHPD must be a surprise to the fine women and men in the Police Department.

I cannot speak for the current Planning Commission, but I imagine that they must be scratching their collective heads over the rejection of their near-unanimous recommendation.

Third, by this action the Council has figuratively hung a sign at the entrances to the City saying “Developers, stay away.” I can’t imagine a developer spending hundreds of thousands of dollars developing a proposal only to risk it being denied in a capricious manner over some perceived minor provision of the General Plan.

I fear that the Council action last Thursday night will cause developers who might otherwise be considering a project under the “Sunrise Tomorrow” plan to say, “Nah, it’s not worth the risk.”

And the capstone is that I did not hear any of the naysayers articulate a higher and better use for the property. This project emerged after months of study and community input regarding this site.

What now, City Council? The ball is in your court.

Bill Van Duker was chairman of the City Heights Incorporation Project for six years and was co-chair of the “Yes on Measure R” ballot initiative that led to the successful incorporation of the City of Citrus Heights. He also served on the SJUSD Commission that ultimately resulted in the purchase of the Sylvan Property by the City.

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