Last month the Ceres City Council voted against allowing buildings taller than 35 feet in the Regional Commercial zone. But on Monday members did an about-face after a staff member alleviated concerns that a proposed hotel would be at the expense of other businesses by blocking freeway visibility of the Walmart Supercenter and other businesses in the Mitchell/Service roads area.
City staff recommended that the Planning Commission have the authority to approve the construction of buildings taller than the current 35-foot height limit on properties zoned Regional Commercial, or RC. The action was requested in response to interest in building a four-story hotel in the Ceres Gateway Center near Highway 99. That hotel could be as tall as 45 or 50 feet, said Senior Planner James Michaels.
On April 11 the council voted 2-3 for allowing the taller structure. However, after Community Development Director Christopher Hoem made his case on Monday the council voted unanimously to allow a hotel to be as tall as 50 feet.
Hoem showed visual representations of how a hotel might affect visibility of the new Walmart as well as future businesses. He noted that a 35-foot-tall hotel structure as currently permitted would also block the view of Walmart from the freeway at points. As northbound travelers pass the hotel and approach the Service Road overpass there will be a clear view of the major retailer.
The Planning Commission would be the “final” decision on any hotel structure in the Ceres Gateway Center but that any decision can be appealed to the council.
The height exception would not apply to Community Commercial (CC) zones on Mitchell Road. It will allow taller buildings in the Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center, Ceres Gateway Center, the northeast corner of Mitchell and Service and the future SamBella Plaza at the southeast corner of Mitchell and Rhode Road.
Councilman Mike Kline, who voted against raising the limit to 50 feet in April, said his concerns were alleviated. Kline said he checked the four-story hotel along Highway 99 at Lander Avenue in Turlock and did not realize it was 50 feet tall.
Ceres resident John Warren suggested that having a 50-foot-tall hotel in close proximity to the freeway would present a noise problem for guests.
Vice Mayor Bret Silveira commented that “up and down Highway 99, 120, I-5, all throughout California there are hotels up to six and eight stories high. This is not unusual. It would be different for our community but it’s not unusual to have hotels the size of the one at Lander like Councilman Kline said. It’s just what’s going on in the world right now and putting them next to the freeway is where the companies all want to put them and they know there could be noise issues.”
Ceres Gateway Center construction has begun with multiple new eateries.