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Council: Eastside land owners will reimburse when they develop
Whitmore Ranch map
The annexation area of the Whitmore Ranch in east Ceres.

When the Steve Alvernaz family decided they want to build new homes on 55 acres in east Ceres, they had to pay for an studies in order to annex their land and adjoining properties to the city limits

On Monday the Ceres City Council decided how the Alvernaz family will be reimbursed if and when those 12 neighboring properties develop since they benefit from the annexation work.

The annexation of the Whitmore Ranch Specific Plan was approved by the Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) in the spring of 2019. The annexed area is bounded by Whitmore Avenue to the north, Moore Road to the west, and the Cesar Chavez Junior High School campus to the east. Residences have yet to be built.

The Ceres Municipal Code gives the council the power to enact a reimbursement fee to reimburse proponents for the costs of preparing specific plans and environmental impact reports, which are a common benefit with regard to the development of properties within a designated area.

The Alvernazes spent $401,418 to accomplish the annexation. Since the annexation area covered an area greater than the group’s ownership and control it qualifies for reimbursement.

The preparation of the WRSP and EIR, and annexation of the area has benefits to the City and benefits to the landowners within the WRSP area. The City had control of the contents of these documents and has adopted them as part of the city’s land use regulations for the Whitmore Ranch area. It is fair and appropriate that the proponent group be reimbursed for the costs of these documents and processes, as they provide a benefit to the city as a whole and a direct benefit to the property owners within the Whitmore Ranch area. Annexation and eventual development of the area could not have occurred without the preparation of the Specific Plan and annexation of the area. Further, the preparation of specific plans within areas to be annexed is a specific policy and program within the General Plan. The city could not take action on any proposed annexation, nor could LAFCO approve any annexation without the preparation of the EIR documents.

Christopher Hoem, the city’s Community Development Director, said the fairest way to allocate costs equally is by the acre, such as the precedent set in the West Landing Specific Plan.

A total of 12 parcels are subject to the reimbursement fee of $7,258.91 per acre. The two schools within the annexation – La Rosa Elementary School and Cesar Chavez Junior High School – are excluded from the fee because they were already developed. 

In addition to the per-acre fee, an administrative fee of $100 will be added to pay the city staff time on processing each reimbursement. That fee could be increased depending on how far into the future the 12 parcels develop.

The city would collect the reimbursement and administrative fees only the first time that any of the following occurs:

1. A building permit is issued for a residential unit beyond the first primary dwelling, exclusive of accessory dwelling units.

2. A final map is recorded to subdivide the subject property into two or more parcels.

3. A conditional use permit is approved for the subject property. For example, the fees would be collected for a permit for a duplex or two-lot subdivision, but would not be collected for a permit for an accessory dwelling unit.

The city expects the Mitchell Ranch project, which has been in the works since 2014, to develop soon. A master plan for the 94-acre area was conducted and an annexation was granted in April 2019.

Project applicants Grant Alvernaz and Steve Alvernaz of Turlock propose to build 77 low-density residential homes, 30 medium-density residential lots, and a centrally located 1.8-acre park/basin. The low-density single-family residential lots will range in size from 5,000 to 8,727 square feet with the average lot size being 6,863 square feet; while the medium-density parcels will range from 2,211 to 2,648 square feet, with the average lot size being 2,429 square feet.