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Future of Tuscany Village development in limbo
Tuscany Village stall
Construction at Tuscany Village has halted for quite some time and has presented a problem of blight, crime and squatters but the city is doing what it can to find a new developer to finish the 40-unit gated community on Whitmore Avenue. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Weeds are growing tall against partially constructed houses in west Ceres, a chain-link fence and a padlock sealing off the entrance to Tuscany Village.

The 40-home private community was under construction but the sounds of saws and hammers ended when developer CEC Homes hit upon some hard times.

Tucked behind a small commercial strip mall largely out of view of Whitmore Avenue traffic, the dormant site became a magnet for homeless persons living in their vehicles. With that came trash and criminal activity.

The stalled project has presented a headache to the city.

Ceres City Manager Doug Dunford said the city took concerns about what was taking place at the dormant construction site to the contractor, who related that “the developer had run into some hard times and so they’re in the process of turning it over to another individual.”

After weeks had passed and nothing had been cleaned up, the city went in and forced a cleanup. They found squatters had used a garage to store their goods and a stolen car and a small meth lab had been set up in one of the homes.

Councilwoman Rosalinda Vierra, whose district encompasses the project site, was present when Code Enforcement and police entered the homes and found the condition of some of the homes deplorable.

“One home which was nearly completed and had water damage from the water being turned on and flooding from the top floor,” said Vierra. “The water heater was also stolen and water flooded the garage, ultimately causing large amounts of mold on the ceiling and on the walls.”

The city had the water service cut off to the homes as a preventive measure.

Dunford said Ceres Police have also stepped up patrols to chase out homeless campers and trespassers. The developer has told the city it will hire private security team to keep an eye on things.

With CEC Homes out and a new unnamed developer taking possession, Dunford is hopeful that the homes will be finished.

“It looks like they’re going to try to move forward and start finishing two or three of them and get them sold and finish a couple more and start working their way around,” said Dunford.

He estimated that houses on the west side of the project are 90 to 95 percent complete.  Selling those would give the developer cash to finish the others in increments.

According to Vierra, the developer encountered financing problems when the interest rates shot up.

”I am trying to find potential investor interested in the project, which may require starting over, although the infrastructure is in place.  I have spoken to one investor, but haven’t heard anything further yet, although they were going to see if they can negotiate prior to the bank taking full possession.”

Tuscany Village has been plagued with problems from the beginning. The project was first approved in 2006 with an accompanying commercial strip in front which has been finished. Two years later the mortgage crisis of 2008 impacted the housing market in serious ways. Sporadic building activity occurred over the next decade but additional delays came about with the COVID pandemic of 2020 and 2021. Construction resumed in 2022 and didn’t get far – some of the homes aren’t fully roofed.

The project, located on the south of Whitmore Avenue between Rockefeller and Fairview Drives, was approved with a community pool and clubhouse.

Squatters broke into unfinished
Squatters broke into unfinished houses in Tuscany Village and left their belongings. The scene was later cleaned up. - photo by Contributed to the Courier