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CVS project approved
Although it's expected to draw more traffic, the CVS store proposed for the northwest corner of Hatch Road and Central Avenue will free up traffic congestion through street improvements, stated Ceres City Council members on Monday.

The council approved the project 4-0 after extensive planning review.

CVS proposes to build a 16,813-square-foot CVS Pharmacy immediately west of the Walgreen's, complete with double pharmacy drive-thru lanes. The company plans to abandon its 1970s-era CVS store at 1640 E. Hatch Road to make it more profitable.

Concerns about the project aggravating existing traffic congestion at the intersection resulted in the project being delayed and later modified between the Planning Commission and City Council. Last fall the council sent back the proposal after neighbors lodged concerns about traffic impacts at the often logjammed intersection.

A new design called for CVS to give up more parking lot area so that southbound Central Avenue can have a dedicated right turn lane for westbound Hatch Road maneuvering, a through lane to proceed down Central Avenue and a left-turn-only lane for eastbound Hatch Road. Proponents say the widened road will reduce stacking of vehicles and reduce back-ups into the residential area.

"It improves existing conditions," said Bill McDermott of Armstrong Development.

In addition, a "DO NOT BLOCK" area will be painted on the asphalt between opposing driveways that serve Walgreens and CVS.

Joe Muratore, a proponent of the project, reminded the council that a traffic study showed that the new store would only generate one and a half cars every 3.5 minutes and that the store will not be open during peak morning traffic times when parents are shuttling their kids to school. He said the Level of Service for the intersection will still remain at a C.

The new project would create a new concrete median on Hatch Road that would prevent left turns onto eastbound Hatch Road from the CVS parking lot. However, the median would allow cars to turn left into the parking lot from eastbound Hatch Road. Traffic would be allowed to make right-in turns from westbound travelers and right-out turns onto westbound Hatch Road.

Tom Brook and David Mendonca said they like the project because CVS has extended an offer to put curb, gutter and sidewalk on their side of Central Avenue. Brook called it a "no brainer improvement." However, Mary and Preciliano Martinez remained opposed to the end, saying traffic backs up to great distances around 8 a.m. and sometimes after school.

"What if it doesn't work? We can't change it," said Percy Martinez.

Mayor Chris Vierra said he understands the Martinez's concerns but said he was sworn to make decisions based on what's best for most people.

The project next moves to the Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) for the annexation of seven parcels from the county to the city of Ceres. The seven parcels are part of a larger 51-acre county island in the area which (LAFCO) would like annexed to the city.

The council gave its approval for a general plan amendment, a prezone from residential to Neighborhood Commercial and an architectural and site plan.