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Golf course neighbors: No to tract
Phipps proposes homes for top 9, driving range
River Oaks Tract Homes.tif
A preliminary subdivision map filed by Mike Phipps to convert part of the River Oaks Golf Course to a housing tract. The existing lots on Golf Links Road are seen at upper left while Hatch Road is at the bottom. The lots on the far right would occupy what is currently the driving range east of the golf course entrance. The plan is not likely to gain the citys approval. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Interest of the owner of River Oaks Golf Course in converting the top nine holes and driving range into a tract home subdivision is drawing fire from nearby homeowners.

Mike Phipps submitted to the city of Ceres a pre-development application for a possible subdivision map application to carve out 70 lots between Golf Links and Hatch roads and on land where the driving range sits just east of River Oaks Drive.

Phipps downplayed the reaction to the proposal by saying it is "only in the planning stages and could fall apart."

"The golf course itself is not making money and I'm looking at other options," Phipps told the Courier. "I've got to do something."

However, the idea of Phipps converting any part of the green belt for tract housing has unsettled those living along Golf Links Road as well as city officials.

"We don't need more lots and homes in Ceres," said one homeowner living in the nearby exclusive golf course enclave of 13 custom homes who asked to remain anonymous.

"This should be of concern to everyone in town. I think we need more recreation not less."

Danny Davis, who purchased a lot on Golf Links Road to build his dream home, contacted the Courier to explain why he is opposed to the idea.

"The investments and property values made by each resident are dependent on the golf course and private nature of the development," said Davis. "Any proposal to develop or sell the golf course for a use other than such will cause a negative environment for the residents, not just River Oaks Estates but the entire city."

JKB Homes is looking to acquire the property from Phipps, a source said.

"It's a real preliminary thing," admitted city of Ceres Planning Director Tom Westbrook. "Nothing happens unless they file a formal application."

As drawn, the project will not pass the development standards set forth by the Modesto Airport Land Use Commission which has a say in what is built underneath the airport flight approach zone. Because hundreds of aircraft drop over the River Oaks property daily, the commission has ruled that high-density housing cannot be developed. The highest density that may be developed is two homes per acre. Phipps' initial project has proposed a much higher density.

"It has to be revised before it can be considered," said Westbrook.

The pre-development application process takes about four to six months to give the city a chance to review the project. The process includes allowing other agencies, such as the airport panel, a chance to comment before any formal application can be filed.

Phipps would specifically be required to seek a general plan amendment since the land is designated Community Recreational which does not support residential uses, said Westbrook.

"He may not move forward," added Westbrook, who has fielded a number of calls from concerned residents about Phipps' preliminary proposal.

Besides changing the character of the area, Davis said he is in opposition out of fear of the loss of golfing opportunities for seniors and physically challenged golfers.