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Ceres may OK first apartments in a decade
• Project proposed for northwest corner of Morgan & Service
Aura Luxury
An architectural rendering of apartment/townhouse buildings in the proposed Aura Luxury Homes. The project is seeking approval for building at the northwest corner of Service and Morgan roads.

A 64-unit apartment complex and adjacent retail commercial shop building for southwest Ceres received the blessings of the Ceres Planning Commission last week.

Members voted 3-1 to recommend that the Ceres City Council approve the project on four lots at the northwest corner of Morgan and Service roads. Commissioner Bob Kachel disapproved of the project but did not state what his objections were. Supporting it were members Couper Condit, Gary Del Nero and Dave Johnson.  Commissioner Laurie Smith was absent.

Community Development Director Tom Westbrook said the rental units, if built, would be offered at market rates.

The commission reviewed the project for several actions. The first action was to approve amendments to both the General Plan and Brown Annexation Master Plan to expand an existing High Density Residential (HDR) General Plan designation (and amending the Commercial designation of the Brown Annexation Master Plan to HDR) to the southwest portion of the site to allow for potential residential development, while the southeast end of the site remains as Community Commercial (CC) and Commercial designations in both the General Plan and the Master Plan. 

The second consideration was for a Vesting Tentative Parcel Map to subdivide the 4.85-acre site into four parcels where said lots range from 0.85 acres to 1.48 acres in size with three lots reserved for the apartment/townhouse units and the fourth lot being for retail commercial building.

Thirdly, the commission approved a Site Plan Approval that would allow for the architectural review, use, and placement of a 8,240-square-foot retail commercial building, and a 64-unit apartment/townhouse complex consisting of two to three-bedroom units situated within 18 two-story buildings containing two to four units each, and one 625-square-foot building for management.

The project is designed to meet all standards of the Planned Community – 49 zone district. The project is proposed to produce 16 dwelling units per acre, which is far less than the 25 that could potentially be allowed with the HDR designation. At the higher density, the applicant could have proposed 100 dwelling units.

The project will be accessible from entrances on Tranquil Lane, two on Morgan Road, and two from Service Road, one of which will serve as secondary access and emergency vehicle access. The primary access to the apartment/townhouse units will be from Tranquil Lane and Morgan Road to serve the residential development, and the primary access to the commercial building will be from Morgan Road and Service Road which will lead to the project parking area consisting of 47 spaces to serve the retail development. Each building will be designed to include architectural features to enhance the site and the surrounding area.

Proposed are 107 parking spaces, of which 64 garage stalls will be available and 43 uncovered parking spaces will be provided to serve the tenants. The city is requiring the condition that garages will be used only to store vehicles to ensure enough parking is there to serve residents.

If the council approves the project later this month, the city expects development to occur in three phases over three years.

Jaskarn Chahal of Chahal Investments, LLC of Ceres is the applicant.

On May 28 the Ceres City Council voted 4-1 against Dhillon Villas, a 145-unit three-story apartment complex and strip commercial project for Mitchell Road, citing impacts to traffic and concerns about circulation within the parking lot.

Apartments in Stanislaus County are difficult to find – and becoming expensive – as the population continues to outstrip available housing stock in California. Last year the California Housing Partnership Corporation reported that Stanislaus County needs nearly 20,000 more apartments and other affordable housing to meet the needs of its low-income renters alone. Turlock built 591 moderately priced units in 2016 and 2017, compared to only 59 in Modesto. Ceres has built none.