It was a unanimous Ceres City Council decision Monday to "clean up" the mix of zoning on vacant lands opposite Ceres High School. The action will eventually prime the location for uses that would complement highway travelers.
The city initiated the zoning clean-up that resulted after the land was diced up by new roads prompted by the new Whitmore/Highway 99 interchange.
"Originally the city was going to wait and let development kind of pursue this," explained Community Development Director Tom Westbrook. "The city sold the property in 2015 within this area and one of the commitments that we made through that process was the city would initiate the zone change and General Plan amendment to make everything consistent."
He said the changes will lend to "ultimate development of that area some cohesion."
Westbrook said uses on the parcels could include restaurants, shops, fueling stations and hotels.
The 5-0 council vote does the following:
• Changes the General Plan designation from HDR (High Density Residential) to H-C (Highway Commercial) for six of the 17 parcels north of Whitmore Avenue west of Central Avenue;
• Rezones 17 parcels from C-1 (Neighborhood Commercial), C-3 (Wholesale Commercial), R-4 (Medium-High Density Multiple Family Residential, PC-10 (Planned Community 10) and PC-47 (Planned Community 47) to H-C (Highway Commercial).
At least two members of the audience directed questions about the demise of the Lazy Wheels Mobile Home Park and if displaced tenants would be assisted. Mayor Chris Vierra said assistance to residents who must move is up to the buyers who are purchasing the land from Caltrans.
"The city is not really involved in that," said Vierra, "but I'm led to believe that they will. To what extent, I don't know."
The closure of the park is governed by the state Department of Housing and Community Development, said City Manager Toby Wells. He believed that residents would have to receive a one-year notice of the impending park closure.
"Once that new owner is in place I am positive of them reaching out to us and then moving through that process, which will take a number of years," said Wells.
Representatives of St. Stanislaus Catholic Church and St. Jude's Catholic Church are trying to partner up to help residents find new places to live, said one female speaker.
The city has considered Lazy Wheels an eyesore, especially now that the new interchange has been completed. On Aug. 5, 2013 the Ceres Planning Commission approved an action to file a Notice of Nonconformance which limits the park's use to a window of five years. The park is a non-conforming use for the zoning but has been in existence for 66 years. The park, including the trailers and its residents, must be gone by August 2018 at the latest.
Lee Brandt jokingly suggested that the city build a statue of "Sitting Bull or something" on the triangle portion so Ceres could open up an Indian casino. Mayor Vierra said the notion would require vast amounts of environmental review.