Sutter Gould had submitted plans to the city to raze the 29,000-square-foot two-story plaza to make way for a new 45,000-square-foot two-story building on the tree-shaded parking lot of the existing structure.
After two hours of discussion Wednesday night, the board decided to reject the project, as the city staff had recommended, because of its inconsistency with the city’s plan development policies and standards for architecture and design.
Commissioner Pete Mitracos, who lives near Eaton Medical Plaza, abstained from the discussion and vote.
During the public comment period, several area residents voiced their opposition to Sutter Gould’s proposal, claiming that it would result in more traffic, more noise and lower property values.
Mary Mitracos, wife of commissioner Mitracos, said that many residents feared the project would be rubber-stamped by the city, even though it didn’t fit the neighborhood.
“I feel like I’m up here fighting a medical Wal-Mart,” she said.
Resident Jane Dublin said, “Nobody is thinking about the people, they’re thinking about the business.”
Several other people who live nearby, including Kyle Miller, questioned why the building couldn’t be constructed on the corner of Bessie and Eaton avenues, rather than on the present parking lot closer to the neighbors.
“How does this fit into our neighborhood?” Miller asked. “Moving it to the corner makes a lot of sense.”
David Romano, a real estate consultant from Modesto-based Newman-Romano, said building on the corner would not be appropriate.
He said Sutter Gould officials had listened to city staff members but knew in their “hearts and minds” that the building would work best where they were proposing it. He said they believed that the project not only met all the city’s standards but even exceeded some of them.
Romano said Sutter Gould had responded to the demands of area residents by proposing an 8-foot wall between the building and the adjacent neighborhood, planning for additional parking spaces and agreeing to transplant a 100-year-old oak tree from the parking lot to the corner of Bessie and Eaton avenues at a cost of $150,000.
When Commissioners Rhodesia Ransom questioned the developers’ commitment to the area, Sutter Gould CEO Paul DeChant assured her they were in it for the long haul.
“As long as the hospital is going to be there, we’ll be there,” he said. “We’re committed to this location. We plan a minimum of 30 years.”
Commissioners Ransom and Joseph Orcutt said they liked what the proposed medical facility offered to the city, but both agreed that the construction plan needed more work.
“I think the project is close,” Orcutt said.
He felt that if the applicants were given a few more months, they could satisfy both the city and the residents.
Commissioner Alfred Johnson said he supported the residents, telling them, “I hear ya.” He said that based on the scale and design of the project and the likely traffic congestion, it “didn’t fit” the neighborhood.
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