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City likes West Ceres plan
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A conceptual plan is out for the West Ceres Annexation project and City Council members had a chance to weigh in it at a Dec. 8 Study Session.

The West Ceres land use plan covers a 959-acre chunk of land west of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks to Ustick Road and south of Whitmore all the way to Service Road.

The bulk of what's being planned includes:

• a housing mix of 293 acres;

• 34 scres of regional commercial acres;

•15 acres of community commercial;

• 32 acres of neighborhood commercial;

• 17 acres of office uses;

• 61 acres of light industrial;

• 126 acres of general industry; and

• 174 acres of county facilities that already exist at the corner of Crows Landing and Service roads.

"They all felt this was a good plan, a good thing for the city," said Ceres planning manager Barry Siebe of the council's attitude.

Planners summed up the vision for West Ceres in one paragraph:

" create a new community inspired by the elements that make traditional small towns desirable places to live: a diverse mix and quality of homes in different densities, shapes, sizes, materials and colors, located near civic uses, public spaces, open spaces, parks, neighborhoods and a strong sense of place throughout. This mixed-use, pedestrian friendly, compact community is expected to be a positive addition to the city of Ceres, because it is one that embraces and implements the city's core values."

--Findings of the plan include the following points:

• The West Ceres Specific Plan is well located for expansion of the city's housing stock and a variety of different types of houses can be planned.

• Community retailers will be attracted to the Crows Landing Road corridor which will be kept free of residential uses. The plan notes that a neighborhood shopping center is supported by between 4,000 and 5,000 households.

While the planning process is still far from over, council members have expressed some concerns about aspects of the project.

"The biggest concern is the school district situation," said Mayor Anthony Cannella.

The city limits will be encroaching west of Crows Landing Road which is in the Modesto City Schools District. Cannella feels there might be a lot of interdistrict transfers since Ceres schools would be closer. The council, he said, wants to see if CUSD and Modesto can adjust the boundaries so Modesto is not serving Ceres residences.

"We need to try and figure out how to resolve this," said Siebe.

The plan intends to bring the "over/under" concept to Ceres, with buildings featuring commercial or office space on the first floor and residential above.

"That is going to be part of the thought process of this plan," said Planning Director Barry Siebe. "We're trying to kind of create a little different scenario than what you see in the traditional subdivisions and such previously in the area. You'll still have some areas that are going to be purely residential or purely residential. But we're going to try to create in the kind of center of the plan area that mixed use, more dense 'walk to work' scenario."

The West Ceres plan will attempt to create a different residential feel, much as is found in the newest development of Bridal Ridge in southwest Oakdale. Elements may include variety architectures, and rear-entry access to houses to eliminate garages from view in certain areas.

"What you may see is that they're grouped a little differently," said Siebe. "You may have a mixture of traditional single-family detached homes. You may have a mixture thrown in there of ... single-family small lot detached, a mixture then of the semi-attached and possibly the higher density privately owned multi-family condos." Traditional apartments and the vertical mixed use concept round out the variety.

Siebe said the planning process is not halfway to completion. The EIR scoping meeting will be held Jan. 13.

G-3 Enterprises, Rutland Enterprises and the Boyle Trust are behind the plan.

Siebe said the plan itself will be done by the end of 2009. Annexation will be next.

"Build out of the plan really depends on the market but you're looking at 15 maybe 20 years."