By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Council picks growth design
Land use plan #1 makes changes west of 99, south of Service Rd.
IMG 8809
A much-larger-than-normal crowd turned out Monday evening to listen and sometimes provide input on the pick of the General Plan land-use alternative. After about 90 minutes of discussion the council chose Alternative #1. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

City leaders on Monday decided to tweak the 1997 General Plan to allow for more industrial and commercial growth west of Highway 99.

The City Council voted 3-2 to choose Alternative #1 of General Plan growth designs. Previously this month the Ceres Planning Commission decided that Alternative #2 was best.

With the alternative finally chosen, consultants Dyett & Bhatia will finalize the document and accomplish all of its environmental reviews before the end of the year. The end result will be a blueprint for how Ceres could grow for the next 20 years.

When the General Plan is completed it will be the foundation for an update of the Zoning Code and the nexus study for Public Facility Fees.

"We're talking about development capacity, rather than the amount of development that the city could realistically hope to see over a 20-year time frame," said Sophie Martin, the consultant's project manager on the General Plan update. "There is more than enough land capacity within the General Plan planning area to serve the city's needs much beyond the year 2035, so really it's going to be the market and other forces that determine how much development occurs."

All three alternatives have a capacity to produce about 6,500 new housing units and with it an additional 22,000 residents; and over 12 million to 14 million square feet of new non-residential development, or commercial, industrial and office space.

The new General Plan is intended to guide the growth in Ceres through 2035, said Community Development Director Tom Westbrook.

According to projections, build-out of each alternative could support approximately a 50 percent increase in Ceres housing units, from the current 13,800 homes to 20,700 units. The growth plan alternatives may also result in four times the amount of existing office space, six times the commercial space, and two times the industrial space currently in the city. Westbrook said any of the three alternatives has the capacity to accommodate a 50 percent increase in Ceres' population of 47,000 and a 400 percent increase jobs.

Alternative #1, termed the "Modified Existing General Plan," retains most aspects of the existing General Plan land use diagram, with an adjustment to take advantage of the interchange reconstruction at Service Road. It designates land around the new interchange, once built, as Regional Commercial instead of the current Business Park and Commercial Recreation designations. The Regional Commercial designation is also expanded to include more flexibility in allowable uses. The area affected by this change is primarily west of Highway 99 and south of Service Road.

No member of the council liked Alternative #3, which called for designated land along Faith Home Road on Ceres' eastern flank for industrial development. The council heard from a host of area residents and farmers who were appalled by the idea. A handful of those who spoke aren't even warm to the idea of the county pursuing a regional expressway on Faith Home and building a new bridge spanning over the Tuolumne River to create a new truck route to the Beard Industrial Tract in east Modesto.

Councilwoman Linda Ryno said she couldn't go along with #2 because she doesn't like changing the property south of Roeding Road from Low-Density Residential to Industrial uses.

"I don't feel the area is good for an industrial zone," said Ryno.

In the end, she voted against #1.

James Atchison asked that his family's property at 2466 Gondring Road remain designated for future low-density residential use rather than industrial use. He said he preferred Alternative #1.

"We think changing the land use designation around the Service Road interchange to Regional Commercial would allow greater opportunities for different levels of jobs," said Atchison.

Most of those who spoke were in opposition of #3 and its industrial buffer zone along Faith Home Road. Wayne Caulkins, Pat Cousins, Ray Dias and Jeanie Knox all spoke against the unpopular alternative.

Some who spoke were unsettled about any growth.

"Do we need to grow more people?" asked Leonard Shepherd. "We right now are taxed heavily with our fire and police, our sewer, everything. We don't need more people. We don't need to take away farmland."

Judy Keys, a 1978 Ceres High School grad, said sided with those who don't want Ceres to continue sprawling.

"We want to keep the country, country," said Keys. "I have several friends who are fifth generations here in Ceres. They are people who built this town and they don't want to see it turned into something like San Jose."

Mayor Chris Vierra reminded the audience members who remain opposed to growth that Alternative #1 does not expand the city beyond what it was projected to be in 1997.

"We're not coming forth and asking for a bigger footprint," said Mayor Vierra. "We're just playing around with the design decided 20 years ago."

Supporting Alternative #1 were Mayor Vierra, and Councilmen Bret Durossette and Ken Lane. Ryno and Vice Mayor Mike Kline voted no.