By Citrus Heights Sentinel, staff report — For the past five years, Citrus Heights has seen an average of just 16 new housing units constructed per year. But on Thursday, the City Council is expected to give final approval for a 260-home development project near Sunrise Boulevard and Greenback Lane that would rapidly boost the number of new homes being built in the city.

Public discussion about the massive, 56-acre Mitchell Farms housing development was first presented by Watt Communities in 2016 and was followed by the nearly year-long preparation of an environmental impact report for the proposal. Last month, the city’s planning commission voted 5-1 to recommend the city council approve the project, a vote which is slated to occur at the council’s Aug. 23 meeting at city hall.

Following a public hearing, the council will vote on whether to certify the project’s extensive environmental impact report, as well as adopt a related General Plan amendment, and approve a tentative map and several associated permits for the project. The council will also introduce for a first reading an ordinance re-zoning the property to become the “Mitchell Farms Special Planning Area.”

Related: Planning Commission votes 5-1 in favor of 260-home development in Citrus Heights

As previously reported, the housing is planned to be spread out into three general communities, with a large 23-acre swath down the middle remaining undeveloped due to a 100-year flood plain associated with Arcade Creek. Under an agreement with the Sunrise Recreation and Parks District, the undeveloped acreage would become part of the parks district and would be maintained using funds from a property tax assessment fee paid annually by each homeowner in the development.

According to a city staff report, the development would have an average density of 8.1 homes per acre, with housing spread out into three general communities and three types of housing targeted towards different buyers. Homes would range in size from about 1,400-square-feet to 2,100-square-feet, and would include 78 standard single-family homes, 110 “alley-loaded” units, and 72 “patio” units, which are groups of 2 to 8 single-family units accessed from a central alley.

A map of the project shows homes would be accessible through two entrances on Arcadia Drive, with a roundabout, as well as an entrance on Fair Oaks Boulevard, just south of the Heather Downs apartment complex. A vehicle bridge that was initially proposed to connect the northern and southern housing villages was removed from the plans due to concerns about “cut-through” traffic and the developer discovering significantly more costs associated with building the bridge.

The project was popular among planning commissioners during last month’s public hearing, with many commenting on the need for additional housing to help alleviate the housing crisis affecting the state and Commissioner Jack Duncan calling the project “probably the best thing that’s happened to Citrus Heights since becoming a city.” Only 79 new housing units were constructed in Citrus Heights between 2013 and 2017, according to a draft environmental report prepared for the project.

As previously reported by The Sentinel, Commissioner Duncan also ended up being the only “no” vote on the project, citing the decision to remove the connector bridge as one of his reasons. He also cited proposed speed bumps and the lack of a new crosswalk being installed on Arcadia Drive as reasons for his decision to vote against the project.

If approved by the council, construction would likely begin in spring of 2019 and homes would be completed about 12 months later, according to Kevin Webb, Northern California division president for Watt Communities.

Proposed 260-unit Mitchell Farms development.