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Center, eatery OK'd for Mitchell
Members of the Ceres Planning Commission approved a commercial shopping center Monday that promises to bring Las Casuelas restaurant chain to the southwest corner of Mitchell and Roeding roads.

The panel voted 5-0 to approve the development, which includes a gas station, two commercial shell buildings and a 6,140 square foot Las Casuelas Mexican Restaurant & Bar. The two commercial buildings are 5,200 and 9,997 square feet in size.

Las Casuelas has proven a popular eatery in Turlock, Modesto and Manteca.

Navdeep Bail of Modesto applied for the Conditional Use Permit, which planners approved on Monday.

Planners had few issues with the project. The developer has agreed to leave at least one of the four large oak trees on the property even though the city has no tree preservation ordinance.

Existing overhead utility lines will need to be placed underground, the city said.

The project site, which is zoned Highway Commercial (H-C), falls within the Mitchell Road Corridor Specific Plan, which dictates architectural styles.

Neighboring project rejected

The approved project is not affiliated with a neighboring project to the west that was shot down on July 29. The Planning Commission voted 2-2 on a proposal to convert nearly five acres from residential to commercial and office space. The tie vote was a procedural denial. That project is being appealed to the Ceres City Council on Aug. 24.

American USA Homes of Stockton will continue to seek approval for a general plan amendment to change the use from residential to commercial. The applicants wishes to build six buildings totalling 59,400 square feet of retail/office use. Two of the buildings would have two-story elevations.

The Ceres Unified School District is proposing to build Lucas Elementary School to the west of the applicant site.

City planning officials say that because the school is going in, there will not be enough room left for development of residential area of significance and they supported the project.

Some of the neighbors have raised concerns about the commercial/office space project. William Kent who lives on nearby Vernal Drive wanted to see the property developed as residential in the future and cited increased traffic to the location. He also expressed concern about all the signs that will pop up from the offices inside, stating that the city has done a poor job of cracking down on illegal signs.

Others support the project, including Marsha Harris of Archcliffe Drive to the south. She signed a petition of support along with 14 other neighbors. Her neighborhood will be walled off from the project.

Commissioner Bob Kachel voted against the American USA Homes proposal, saying the designation of Highway Commercial, or H-C, was not appropriate. He also stated that the proposal would be too intrusive to existing residences and the future school.

Manhesh Ranchod of American USA Homes said he tried to develop the property as a high-density apartment complex years ago and since neighbors balked, he believes commercial development is the only way to go.

Kachel and Mike Kline voted against the proposal while Laurie Smith and Ruthanne Williams supported it.