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Council undoes rules for flea market set by commission
• Longer evening hours granted
El Rematito satellite
An aerial view of the El Rematito Flea Market on Crows Landing Road. - photo by Image courtesy of Google Maps

El Rematito Flea Market operators were once again back before the Ceres City Council last week, appealing four of the restrictions set forth by the Ceres Planning Commission in a 5-0 vote in April.

The council met for a “special” meeting on Tuesday, May 28 because the regularly scheduled meeting fell on Memorial Day.

In April, after months of delays, the commission finally considered and approved changes to the permit that expands the operation of the Crows Landing Road flea market. Those changes include changes affecting a mobile food vendor section for up to 20 vehicles. At the behest of El Rematito, the city originally suggested that the food trucks operate from 8 a.m. to 12 midnight but the commission voted to scale back evening hours to end at 10 p.m. Last week the council restored some of those original times.

Another condition that was appealed was the commission’s 10 p.m. limit of the night market to occur three nights per week (Mondays through Wednesdays). El Rematito wanted the night market to run from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m.

Thirdly, the council reversed the commission’s rejection of El Rematito holding special events – alike Cinco de Mayo, Mexican Independence Day and Fourth of July celebrations, fashion shows, beauty pageants, concerts, car shows and auto and equipment auctions – under one conditional use permit. The commission sought to retain city control by requiring a temporary use permit for each of the special events.

Operators filed an appeal of that decision and the council decided to strike the commission’s condition.

A city staff indicated support for El Rematito’s appeal, saying, “Staff recommended the original Conditions of Approval and feel that these proposed conditions adequately account for the potential impacts to the community.”

The staff report said the Ceres Police Department has no issue with the later hours of operation. But in April the Planning Commission wanted to see consistency with the recently approved Grub Hub project on Service Road which only was given permission to operate until 10 p.m.

The fourth condition appealed by flea market owners sought to undo the commission’s limit of 10 p.m. for any amplified music or live bands when 11 p.m. was requested. Vice Mayor Bret Silveira made a motion to allow amplified music up until 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and end at 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Newly appointed Community Development Director Lea Simvoulakis pushed in favor of El Rematito’s original set of conditions. She noted that the city still retains control over noise issues relating to later hours for special events like concerts. Simvoulakis also said the police and fire departments found no issues with the longer hours.

Commercial uses are required to comply with noise standards set in the Ceres Municipal Code, she noted, and if noise exceeds limits, then the city could take enforcement action and potential civil action.

“Staff didn’t feel it was necessary to have them apply for a TUP every time as the conditional use permit essentially covers all of the items that we review in the TUP,” said Simvoulakis. “But to do it over and over again would essentially reviewing the same matters over and over again and would really be an undue burden. We feel holding the original conditions is the best recommendation this evening.”

Ceres resident John Warren defended the commission’s established limits as “a good decision.”

“In light of the number of new homes that are going to be built around that market out there in the near future, there’s going to be like 10,000 more residents, 6,000 plus more homes,” said Warren. “As we all know at nighttime, noise travels a long distance and is amplified greatly.”

While Warren said the municipal code forbids noise levels that exceed 70 decibels at someone’s property line, he said ”I don’t know who’s going to be there at 11 o’clock at night to measure those levels of sound.”

He said backing off from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m. seemed reasonable to him.

Attorney Nelson Gomez said he understood Warren’s concerns but noted that the CUP has “pages and pages of conditions” to limit noise and other impacts.

“Therefore we believe that it’s not necessary for them to apply for a fee of $125 at each of the times that they’re going to have a special event, only because of the fact that those particular conditions are already outlined and have gone through all of the departments.”

Councilman James Casey expressed concern about the city’s ability to enforce noise and other conditions in the evening if and when complaints are lodged.

Lt. Trenton Johnson said the process would involve a warning, followed by a $100 ticket, $200 and then $500.

“I want the flea market to succeed,” said Casey, “We’ve been working on their whatever this is called since the beginning of 2022. They keep changing things to it so they can succeed and that’s important because people like to go there … but the real question is this: If a citizen calls in and complains and Code Enforcement is busy doing something else and they’re not able to verify it, does anything happen to them?”

City Manager Doug Dunford said police can order them to turn down the music or face a fine if the problem isn’t remedied.