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What’s next for Sylvan Corners?

The future of a vacant 11.3-acre parcel at Sylvan Corners is unknown, following a 3-2 vote by the City Council to block a proposed 94-home development at the site. // Image credit: Google Maps

By Mike Hazlip—
The City Council’s surprise 3-2 vote denying a 94-home development at Sylvan Corners leaves questions over the future of the property.

The Sentinel previously reported three council members opposed the development citing concerns over increased traffic, opposition from residents, and quality of life during an Oct. 12 meeting. Mayor Tim Schaefer, Vice Mayor Bret Daniels, and Councilwoman Jayna Karpinski-Costa opposed the development, while Councilmembers Porsche Middleton and MariJane Lopez-Taff voted in favor.

The developer, Woodside Homes, had undertaken work on the plan since the City Council approved a sale agreement in a January 2021 vote.

Asked about the future of the property, the city’s mayor said in an email on Tuesday that he “cannot comment at this time.” An email request for comment sent Monday to a representative for Woodside Homes was not returned by press time Friday.

In a Oct. 18 statement to The Sentinel, Citrus Heights Spokeswoman Marisa Brown said the property was a strategic investment and the city will continue to look at future options.

“The Sylvan Corners property was a strategic investment into the heart of the City and will continue to be of strategic importance moving forward,” she said. “The property is owned outright by the City and allows the City to exercise patience to ensure future development of the property is commensurate with the strategic importance of the location and history of the site. The City will continue to evaluate future opportunities for the site and will keep the community informed as opportunities come forward.”

The council’s decision prompted longtime resident Bill Van Duker to voice his criticisms of the vote in a guest column published in The Sentinel, saying he was “stunned” by the decision. Van Duker was active in the city’s incorporation effort of the late 1990s, and has served on the Planning Commission.

Van Duker called it “egregious” to see the “misuse and mis-application” of some General Plan provisions to justify the vote against the project. The business owner pulled no punches in his column, calling the vote a “profound slap in the face” to city staff and Planning Commission members.

Guest Opinion: Stunned by council’s vote against 94-home 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,” Van Duker said.

He went on to raise concerns over the impact this decision could have on potential future developers.

“[B]y this action the Council has figuratively hung a sign at the entrances to the City saying ‘Developers, stay away’,” Van Duker said. “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.”

For the project to have been approved, the council would have had to approve a General Plan Amendment for the project, rezoning the site from “public” to “medium density residential.” Opponents of the housing plan focused on a need for “enhanced community benefit” specified in the city’s code as a requirement for rezoning, and said the project did not meet that requirement.

Other ideas for the site have included mixed-use development or a sports complex, but following a 120-day offering period in 2020, Woodside Homes was the only developer to present the city with an offer. The lack of other offers prompted some disappointment at the time from council members who preferred mixed-use or other development at the site.

The city first agreed to sell the land to Woodside Homes in a 4-1 vote during a January 2021 meeting. Schaefer was the sole opposing vote in that meeting, with Councilman Daniels opting for what he said was a “reluctant yes” to the sale, The Sentinel reported at the time. Former Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins and the late Steve Miller both voted to approve the agreement, as did Middleton.

As part of the due diligence process, Phase I and Phase II environmental reports were conducted by Woodside Homes, uncovering soil contamination associated with the former middle school located at the site.

The city excavated and disposed of more than 62 tons of contaminated soil, according to a previous email statement to The Sentinel by Economic and Community Engagement Director Meghan Huber. The contamination resulted from the use of pesticides and caulking at the school, and was just above the threshold for residential development, she said.

With no proposals currently on the table for development at the site, Van Duker says: “What now, City Council? The ball is in your court.”

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