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City answers flea market dust problem
Dirt lot El Rematatio
An aerial photo shows the layout of the the El Rematito Flea Market on Crows Landing Road, with the dirt parking lot to the west.

Members of the Ceres Planning Commission approved a zoning ordinance change last week that would spell out how dirt lots must be managed if used as spillover parking to primary paved parking lots.

The change to the Ceres Municipal Code Chapter 18.25 Section K would create a new Section L. Essentially it would allow the Director of Community Development to authorize excess parking areas, beyond that which is minimally required, to be either gravel or paved parking.

The issue came up because of complaints that arose last year about dust caused by cars at El Rematito Flea Market on Crows Landing Road.  The popular flea market has paved parking for 1,800 vehicles and also an accessory adjacent dirt lot for parking. The city received complaints about dust from that dirt lot use which prompted the city to order the use abandoned. After much discussion, the city decided to allow the lots – and others like them – to be covered in gravel. In El Rematito’s case, paving the lot doesn’t make sense as the Ceres General Plan shows the adjacent lot designated to be built with houses in the future.

Christopher Hoem, director of Community Development for the city of Ceres, said there are a few other properties in Ceres which use dirt parking lots as accessories to paved parking lots, including some churches.

The change does not excuse a use from installing the required minimum-sized paved lots.

Nelson Gomez, a representative of El Rematito supported the text change. He said the accessory spillover parking is seven acres in size at the rear of the flea market.

Gomez pointed out that the city has a dirt area where people park during soccer tournaments at Ceres River Bluff Regional Park. He also pointed out that St. Jude’s Catholic Church has a similar situation.

Certain conditions will be required. For example, the city will require evenly distributed gravel free of bare spots and weeds and must be at least two inches deep. The city also is specifying certain size gravel and that gravel be at least 20 feet from a city street.

“We don’t want it to be really big rocks that could cause damage and we don’t want it to be like a fine sand because that would be ineffective, so it has to be a certain size,” said Hoem. 

The city also wants to require a paved an asphalt or concrete apron adjacent to a city sidewalk or street from the gravel parking area. Hoem explained that the 20-foot separation between the street or sidewalk and the gravel bed is needed to prevent loose pieces ending up on the street.

“That apron gives us a buffer from having any issues with tracking that material.”

The property owner will also be responsible for sweeping or cleaning any gravel or mud tracked by cars onto the adjacent city street.

If the gravel lot is used at night, it must be lit, the city determined.

The zoning ordinance change must be approved by the Ceres City Council before it goes into effect.

Commissioner Bob Kachel said the city will have to monitor the effectiveness of gravel in controlling dust and expressed concerns that dust may still be a problem.

City Engineer Kevin Waugh answered Kachel’s observation that dust can be raised on a gravel road by saying vehicle speeds in a gravel lot would be much lower.