The Elk Grove Planning Commission on Feb. 18 will review the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for California Northstate University’s (CNU) proposed teaching hospital and other associated facilities.

Following the commission’s recommendation on the EIR, the Elk Grove City Council will review it for final approval or denial.

CNU plans to build a $750 million to $800 million, 13-story, 400-bed hospital in the Stonelake neighborhood, adjacent to its current campus on West Taron Drive, by November 2022. The university’s Elk Grove medical center currently includes a medical college and pharmacy.

This three-phase project’s 24-acre site would include the hospital with its helicopter landing site, a medical office building, outpatient clinic, a 150-unit dormitory, and three parking structures.

During their Feb. 18 online meeting, planning commissioners will also vote on whether to approve CNU’s request for changes in land-use designations in the city’s General Plan.

CNU desires that 6 acres of the project site have its designation changed from “Community Commercial” to “Employment Center.”

The applicant also asks that the Planning Commission support a General Plan amendment request for an additional 3 acres of the site to have its designation changed from “Light Industrial” to “Employment Center.”

The commission will also vote on whether to support the rezoning of this property. These 9 acres of property would need to be rezoned from “Industrial-Office Park” and “General Commercial” to “Business Professional.”

As a controversial project, CNU’s proposed hospital site has drawn both support and criticism from local residents since its announcement by the university’s administration two years ago.

Opposition to the project includes business owners’ concerns that they would be forced to leave the Stonelake Landing shopping center, south of Elk Grove Boulevard, near Interstate 5.

Additionally, a large group of Stonelake residents and others formed a coalition to oppose the construction of the hospital at its proposed site. The group is known by the name, Neighbors Ensuring Sincere Transparency (NEST).

NEST’s Facebook page notes: “CNU’s hospital proposal destroys small business, interferes (with) wildlife refuge (and) shoehorns 13-story hospital (with) helistop (and) other tall structures next to residential communities.”

The Stonelake Master Association, which represents 1,477 single-family homes south of Elk Grove Boulevard, between Interstate 5 and Franklin Boulevard, has also expressed concerns with the hospital proposal.

Jake Rambo, president of that association, told the Citizen that he plans to speak in opposition to CNU’s hospital proposal during the Feb. 18 Planning Commission meeting.

He disagrees with statements that have been made by CNU regarding their hospital plan.

“They’ve made false statements about their job numbers, false statements about their claim to be the first hospital in Elk Grove, false statements that they can open and operate a hospital next year,” Rambo said. “They make all those false statements and then they lack transparency on key facts like how do they intend to pay for this facility and other questions. We need answers to ensure we don’t have a ‘ghost hospital’ to match (Elk Grove’s) former ‘Ghost Mall’ (at Highway 99 and Kammerer Road). And on all those questions, CNU says, ‘Trust us.’ They haven’t earned that trust.”

Environmental groups, including Friends of Stone Lakes Conservation Committee (FSLCC) and Friends of Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, are focusing on the project’s potential impacts on the local area’s wildlife.

FSLCC Chair Rob Burness criticized the location of the proposed hospital.

“Locating an isolated, very tall building – the tallest for miles around – next to a wildlife refuge at a restrictive point on the Pacific Flyway, where major resources have been committed to protect habitat and wildlife, is heedless of an important mass resource that should be accepted and embraced by the city,” he said.

Burness added that the committee does not believe the project is in a good location to meet regional health care needs, and he referred to the proposed hospital’s location within a 200-year floodplain as “just not good planning.”

The Planning Commission’s Feb. 18 meeting begins at 6 p.m. and can be viewed through the city’s website at www.ElkGroveCity.org.