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Host of approved projects have not materialized
• Las Casuelas Mexican Restaurant.

• The Ceres Gateway Project with its fast food restaurant and Hampton Inn & Suites.

• A five-acre commercial project for Roeding and Mitchell roads.

• A Hatch Road assisted living facility.

• The Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center with its anchor tenant, the Walmart Supercenter.

Each one of them was approved for Ceres. None of them were ever built, for different reasons, much to the chagrin of city officials who spent lots of labor in processing and public debate.

They haven't materialized for different reasons while some mysteriously vanished into a planning Twilight Zone. Others have fallen victim to the economic recession.

A sign posted in 2009 at the corner of Mitchell and Roeding roads heralding the "future home" of Las Casuelas Mexican Restaurant is now a laughable relic of planning past. In August 2009 the Ceres Planning Commission approved a commercial shopping center that included Las Casuelas, a gas station and two commercial shell buildings at the corner.

City of Ceres Senior Planner Tom Westbrook confirmed the project died when developer Nick Bali didn't act on it and ignored city notices to get an extension before the approval to a conditional use permit expired.

A representative of Las Casuelas in Manteca said on Monday there are no plans to pursue a restaurant in Ceres but could not elaborate on why the project failed.

Next door, a five-acre commercial project proposed in 2009 also dropped into an abyss. American USA Homes of Stockton won approval for a general plan amendment to change the property use from residential to commercial for the building of six buildings totalling 59,400 square feet of retail/office use.

Westbrook said about two months after receiving approval the developer lost the property, taken back from the bank.

The city has not heard from Ralph Ogden, who won approval in May 2008 to build in the Ceres Southern Gateway (the southwest corner of Mitchell and Service roads) a three-story, 162-room Hampton Inn & Suites and six commercial buildings totalling 25,955 square feet for restaurants, retailers and a gas mart.

Calls to Ogden were not returned as of press time.

To the north lays fallow ground that was approved this year for the Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center and its anchor tenant of the Ceres Walmart Supercenter. The project has been temporarily blocked by a lawsuit filed by a group calling themselves "Citizens for Ceres." For years the group aired its laundry list of objections to Walmart but both the Planning Commission and City Council didn't see things their way. Before the ink could dry on the approval process documents, the group is legally challenging the adequacy of the environmental review of the project. City Attorney Michael Lyions said he is hopeful a Stanislaus County Superior Court judge can make a determination by the end of the year. City officials expect the Supercenter to survive scrutiny and believe "Citizens" will file an appeal at a higher court. Lyions called the group's moves "delay tactics" against the national retailer.

One project that was built on Mitchell Road after approval on Mitchell Road remains vacant. On April 21, 2008 planners approved a 4,200-square-foot Washington Mutual bank as part of a three-building development at Mitchell south of Rosewood. As the bank was being constructed, Washington Mutual was bought out by Chase. The building remains vacant three years later, never having been occupied.

City planners are also scratching their heads about failure of Dr. Meetinder Rai to build a 175-bed Hatch Road rehabilitation and nursing facility facility after its approval in September 2009. Dr. Rai proposed a 47,348 square foot singe-story facility on a four-acre parcel south of Hatch Road between Stonum Road and Central Avenue.

Projects ready to go

Apparently approval of an O'Reilly Auto Parts will soon lead to construction activity north of the new Rite Aid on Mitchell Road north of Fowler Road.

Westbrook also noted that the Stanislaus County Office of Education has plans to build a school south of the Ceres Post Office. The city has no jurisdiction over the approval process since the state has jurisdiction of school projects, he said.