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City: Rec uses okay in industrial zone
However, bingo halls, churches wont be allowed where industries are
Recreational uses will be allowed in both General and Light Industrial zones with a conditional use permit. The City Council decided last week to allow the uses, after Bonsu Elite Athletics moved into the industrial area on Railroad Avenue without the citys knowledge or permission. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier file photo

The City Council won't shut the door for recreational uses in industrial zones in Ceres. It does, however, wish to keep churches, bingo halls and other social halls from setting up shop in industrially zoned buildings.

The council made the determination at a study session held on Monday, Sept. 22.

The matter came before the council in the aftermath of an issue with Bonsu Elite Athletics, which managed to get into an industrial building on Railroad Avenue earlier this year without the city knowing about it first.

When Les Bonsu moved his Bonsu Elite Athletics (BEA) training facility from Modesto to Ceres in April, he failed to get the proper city approval to operate within an industrial area. Bonsu set up his business in a 7,000-plus-square-foot facility at 3427 Railroad Avenue, which falls in an industrial zone. In July that oversight placed him before the Ceres Planning Commission, which approved his request for a conditional use permit so that he may stay.

Tom Westbrook, the city's director of Community Development, said the general plan's Light Industrial and General Industrial designations encourage the possibility of recreational uses but doesn't say what those uses should be. However, the industrial zones in the Zoning Ordinance don't suggest any recreational uses are permitted at all.

"So we have a little bit of a dilemma," Westbrook told the council.

Westbrook asked the council to weigh in because he and planning staff have had a difficult time explaining the city's dilemma.

"We've been seeing more of an increase in these types of uses," said Westbrook. He said some uses that are in commercial zones want to go to industrial zones, mostly because rents are cheaper. "Staff was having a hard time saying what was appropriate."

The city's zoning code defines Community Recreational Facilities as swimming pools, skating rinks, bowling alleys, dance halls, and theaters, which are also allowed in commercial zones by conditional use permit. But Westbrook said the code does not address batting cages, go-cart facilities, indoor soccer or other uses in industrial zones.

Currently besides, Bonsu, the city has another recreational use in an industrial zone. Body & Soul was approved in 2009 with a three-year Conditional Use Permit. That means the business has to be reviewed and approved every three years.

On Aug. 18 the Ceres Planning Commission voted to recommend that the council not allow recreational uses in both industrial zones. Westbrook said the commission was concerned that recreational uses could hog up space for retailers and thus hurting the city's ability to generate sales tax revenue.

Vice Mayor Bret Durossette said he doesn't see a problem with recreational uses taking up industrial space, noting the vacant spaces in Ceres. He pointed out that many recreational facilities in other cities of Northern California - whether it's batting cages or Sky High Sports or go-karts, are in industrial areas.

"I don't want us to tie our hands in regards to having an opportunity to maybe get some businesses to come in here," said Durossette.

The council also determined that it does not want occupancy uses in commercial zones, namely bingo halls, social halls and churches.

Churches and bingo halls are not currently allowed in industrial zones but are allowed in 25 of the 27 zoning areas in Ceres.

Councilman Mike Kline spoke to other uses taking up commercial space, chiefly a number of churches on Fourth Street in downtown Ceres. Westbrook said he was not recommending keeping churches out of commercial zones. He said churches may be more sensitive to the sounds of an industrial shops more than recreational uses that typically are loud.

Councilman Ken Lane said maybe the city should look at taking churches out of commercial zones, such as downtown.

City Manager Toby Wells said he wouldn't like the idea of giving away "those job locations away to the bingo hall and church facilities when they they've got a number of places to go."

Councilmember Linda Ryno liked the idea of allowing recreational uses like Bonsu in the industrial zone as long as a CUP is required. She said the process will allow the city to keep an eye on potential parking and traffic issues created by those uses.

"I think we should keep our options open," echoed Lane, who suggested making changes in the general plan.

Westbrook followed up by saying that spelling out what types of rec uses are permitted, would provide immediate resolution until the general plan is amended. He added that he would feel more comfortable with someone wanting to put a recreational use in an existing industrial building over someone proposing a new building in an industrial zone.