About 40 residents and business owners gathered in the community room at city hall Wednesday night to discuss strategy for opposing a proposal to build an ARCO gas station and convenience store at the corner of Sunrise Boulevard and Sungarden Drive in Citrus Heights.
The proposal was submitted by Barghausen Consulting three months ago and resulted in enough vocal opposition and questions that the mayor previously called a special community meeting in November to address some of the concerns. The plans submitted include demolition of the existing multi-story office building on site, construction of a 3,000-square-feet AM/PM convenience store, installation of a 42-feet-by-110-feet covered area for eight gas pumps, and the addition of a small car wash.
Since November, the group has continued to organize and mobilize opposition, with Wednesday’s meeting staffed with check-in tables at the door to keep in touch with attendees, signature sheets circulated for a petition opposing the proposal, and a plan to fight the ARCO project all the way to the top.
The Jan. 18 meeting featured a series of speakers addressing various reasons for opposing the gas station. Speakers cited concern about increased crime, loitering, lighting, traffic, location, proposed liquor sales, and whether there was a need for a new gas station and 24-hour convenience store in an area they argue is “saturated” already.
“We’re not fighting city hall, we’re not fighting the planning commission, we’re not even fighting [the developer],” said resident and speaker Fred Sullivan. “We’re fighting this project… to have a voice in the destiny of the City of Citrus Heights.”
Sullivan said the ARCO might make business sense, but called the proposal “a public nuisance.” He primarily addressed the aspect of liquor licensing and said the state’s Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) authorizes up to three liquor licenses in the area of the proposed ARCO, but he said the area already has double that number of licenses.
Although setting license limits based on census tracts, ABC allows local jurisdictions to approve additional licenses on a case-by-case basis through a “letter of public convenience or necessity” that is voted on by the city council.
The group also gained support from Bill Van Duker, a former planning commission member who has been called the “godfather” of Citrus Heights for his role in leading the fight for incorporation 20 years ago. Van Duker called the proposed ARCO “the wrong activity at the wrong site,” and promised the group that he would “do everything I can to help and support you.”
“This never has been a commercial site; it’s been a business and professional site,” said Van Duker, noting the location has been used as an office building.
The site is zoned “SC” commercial for shopping center use and is located in the Copperwood Square Shopping Center, along with FoodMaxx, Dollar Tree, and several other businesses and restaurants. Opponents argue that the center is surrounded by homes and is not fitting for a gas station, which requires a special use permit to operate in the location.
Several nearby business owners also spoke out against the project, with Randy Pastor, owner of Pastor’s gas station at the corner of Sunrise Boulevard and Old Auburn Road, stating another gas station would pull customers away from his business.
Pastor also told residents that the ARCO would bring in homelessness and loitering to the area, noting that his gas station deals with homeless issues “constantly.” He said used needles, panhandling, and vandalism are commonplace at his location.
Kyle Hasapes, a local resident and county prosecutor, called the project “very concerning” and said he was concerned about crime associated with alcohol sales. He said the proposed late night liquor sales and loitering would “bring the kind of people we do not want around our families [and] neighborhoods.”
“It’s not a matter of if crime is going to increase, it’s a question of how much,” Hasapes said.
Nancy Graham, who organized Wednesday’s meeting and is president of the neighborhood association the proposed project is located in, said she was pleased with the meeting’s turnout, in light of heavy winds and rain that night.
The neighborhood president expressed concern that nearby homes would be subjected to glaring lights at night, as well as sounds of car doors slamming, car wash noise, people talking late at night, and “joy-riders coming up with radios on full blast.” She also noted a Montessori school in the shopping center, as well as a nearby daycare.
Asked to respond to community concerns about the gas station, the project’s architect, Dan Goalwin, said impacts would be mitigated by conditions imposed by the city, as the project requires a conditional use permit. Goalwin said he was not authorized to comment further about the project and said no one else was available to respond to questions on Friday afternoon.
City Planning Division Manager Colleen McDuffee, who was not able to be reached Friday, previously told residents at the Nov. 28 community meeting that the planning commission can impose conditions of approval on development projects and often reviews recommendations on conditions like hours of operations restrictions and delivery times.
See prior story from November for more comment from the city: Residents pack out meeting to oppose new ARCO on Sunrise Blvd
The convenience store at the nearby Pastor’s gas station had hours of operation restrictions imposed by the city to close by 11 p.m., according to the owner, while the 7-Eleven at 6882 Sunrise Blvd. is open 24-hours.
Graham said her group is planning several more meetings in advance of the proposal reaching the planning commission.
Share your thoughts on the proposal: Submit a letter-to-the-editor here