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Delayed subdivision given extension
• Irritation over more El Rematito flea market delays
Whitmore Ranch old map
The Ceres Planning Commission extended approval on a 46-lot subdivision for the 8.4-acre site (seen as the shaded portion) on this map. The project is proposed for east of Moore Road and south of Whitmore Avenue.

Two items were before the Ceres Planning Commission on Tuesday evening, Feb. 20 which were anything but new but in need of extensions.

The commission was asked to give a two-year extension to Grant Alvernaz so that approval of his 46-lot residential subdivision east of Moore Road and south of Whitmore Avenue wouldn’t expire.

The 94-acre Mitchell Ranch project has been in the works since 2014 with the site annexed to the city of Ceres five years ago. About 40 acres are occupied by La Rosa Elementary School and Cesar Chavez Jr. High School campuses, leaving 50 acres for development.

A total of 18 acres will be developed for 196 single-family homes with an average lot size of 5,000 square feet.  Another 6.6 acres are designated for medium-density residential uses, or 85 dwelling units with an average lot size of 3,000 square feet. An additional 6.4 acres will be filled by high-density apartment or condominiums that could result in 160 living units.

The rest of the Mitchell Ranch project includes 5.2 acres for open space, including a bike and pedestrian corridor leading to the junior high’s western boundary.

Two single-family residential subdivisions have been approved. The one which was about to expire was the 8.4-acre Whitmore Ranch Phase 2 map consisting of 46 lots for homes. The commission gave its unanimous consent to extending the map’s validity until March 31, 2026.

Whitmore Ranch Phase 1 was approved in 2021 to subdivide 19.3 acres into 107 residential lots for new homes in east Ceres.

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.

In a rare action, three members of the Ceres City Council sat in the audience of the commission meeting – Mayor Javier Lopez, and councilmembers Rosalinda Vierra and James Casey. Vierra spoke to the commission and urged them to extend the approval.

“I would like to see the housing to start being built,” said Vierra. “I think that’s important in our city that we continue to try to have housing.”

Commissioner Gary Condit asked City Manager Doug Dunford why the project has been delayed to the point that an extension was required.

Dunford explained that the city is working out a development agreement which is being reviewed by the attorney relating to the forming of a Community Facilities District for the new subdivision. Dunford said the matter is expected to be reviewed by the Ceres City Council on March 11.

El Rematito delayed again

Commissioner Bob Kachel expressed frustration over continued delays regarding El Rematito Flea Market’s request to amend the Conditional Use Permit (CUO) relating to their operation.

“It’s, I believe, the third or fourth time it’s been continued which is probably frustrating but that’s the way it is,” Kachel told one citizen who showed up to voice concerns about changes to the flea market operation.

Kachel said once the matter comes back to the commission on March 4 “we will have the full project.”

Dunford explained that the last delay was caused when fire department officials asked for “last-minute changes” and the city failed to notify El Rematito of those changes.

The process of amending the CUP has been a controversial one. 

The 29-acre flea market on Crows Landing Road is operating under a 12-month extension of a conditional use permit (CUP). That permit allows the market to operate with changes to the operations, including use of a graveled overflow parking area for customers.

El Rematito operators want to expand operations to develop an event hall as well as relocate the food truck section from the southeast section of the site to the northeast. They also wish to add two more parcels to the use permit.

El Rematito also seeks to streamline the permitting process for special events with predetermined conditions. But since no site plan had been submitted that reflected those changes, the Ceres Planning Commission decided in October to extend the life of the CUP and discuss the flea market’s new plans at the Dec. 4 meeting. But the matter instead was tabled.

In September 2020, the Planning Commission approved an amendment to the CUP to allow El Rematito Flea Market to operate for two years at which time the city would monitor and review the project. The flea market has been operating under a CUP originally approved by the city in 2015 but those changes to conditions allow the market to operate Thursdays through Sundays as well as operate a grub hub type of collection of food vendor trucks Mondays through Thursdays.