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City to grant three-year extensions on projects delayed by economy

POSTED March 20, 2013 11:00 a.m.
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It's not uncommon in this economic recession for developers to postpone building projects which they received approval to build from a city council or planning commission. To keep the approval from expiring, the developer must go back and win an extension. Those extensions are typically for a year. But action being taken by the Ceres City Council will grant up to a three-year extension.

The action excludes vesting or tentative subdivision maps.

The move affects less than six approved projects in Ceres which are awaiting better economic times.
Senior Planner Tom Westbrook since the state Legislature recently passed a series of laws that granted automatic time extensions for vesting or tentative subdivision maps that have been approved but not yet built. A number of developers don't want their maps to expire but unable to currently build because of poor market conditions or financing issues. The Legislature, however, did not grant extensions that weren't part of a map, such as a proposed commercial or industrial building project.

In Ceres, anyone with an approved project can seek a one-year extension. Under a new council ordinance amendment which will be approved next Monday, developers could get up to a three-year extension.
"Staff, kind of following the trend of the state law, thought it would be beneficial - even if it looks like though we're emerging from this economic recession but not quite there yet - to perhaps allow a provision where somebody asks, instead of year after year ... they could request up to a three-year extension," said Westbrook.

Any extension would still have to be granted by the Ceres Planning Commission, said Westbrook.

Councilman Mike Kline wanted to know what would happen if an extension were given and then the applicant sought modifications at a later date. He specifically wanted to know if the project would have to start from scratch. Westbrook said minor changes could be approved by planning staff but that significant project changes would cause the project to be shifted back to the commission.

Mayor Chris Vierra said a number of cities are taking similar actions to grant longer extensions, saying "it makes sense."
The ordinance is scheduled to be approved on Monday and take effect 30 days later.

Westbrook said the action affects Tom Mitsopoulos' project to build a 36,000-square-feet retail and office complex on Service Road just east of Morgan Road. It also applies to Dirk Wyatt's approval to convert an existing home at the corner of Sixth Street and Whitmore Avenue to an office use.




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