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Hatch project delayed again
• Proposal won’t be heard until Jan. 25
River Oaks Plaza
A development dubbed the River Oaks Plaza at the entrance to the River Oaks Golf Course was approved by the Ceres Planning Commission on Monday. The project must go before the City Council. If built, it would be just south of the golf course driving range.

The Ceres City Council agreed on Monday evening to postpone discussion about a controversial proposed project near the River Oaks Golf Course again.

The applicant, acting through his representative of GDR Engineering asked for a continuance of the item to Monday, Jan. 25, 2021 due to the coronavirus restrictions that are not allowing physical attendance at City Council meetings. Meetings have been conducted online via Zoom.

“They felt it was necessary to have an open public meeting with all parties that are interested to speak,” said Ceres City Manager Tom Westbrook. An attorney hired to represent River Oaks Golf Course – which opposes the project – agreed to the postponement.

Surjit Singh is proposing to build a commercial strip mall on 2.16 acres along Hatch Road just south of the net from River Oak’s driving range. Singh plans to develop three retail commercial buildings sized at 3,500, 4,835 and 14,160 square feet.

In March the Ceres Planning Commission voted 4-1 to allow the rezoning of the property south of the driving range and approved a tentative map and site plan for a proposed commercial development. Owners of the golf course say the development of the neighboring property threatens the viability of their recreational facility.

The hearing has been delayed several times now and was to be heard on Monday.

The project site is zoned from Mixed Use (MX)-2 through the Mitchell Road Corridor Specific Plan which allows limited commercial like professional offices. Singh owner the Punjab Plaza at Central Avenue at Pine Street elected to request an amendment of the MRCSP designation to Community Commercial (CC) to allow more of a wider range of commercial uses.

During the 2018 update of the General Plan, Singh was one of a handful of property owners who requested General Plan designation changes.  Singh’s land had a Commercial Recreational designation in the former General Plan and asked that it be changed to Community Commercial. The Planning Commission and City Council approved the changing of the General Plan designation from Commercial Recreational to Community Commercial. 

If the council follows in the commission’s footsteps, the MRCSP amendment will make the General Plan designation and the MRCSP consistent.

Golf course owners Ken and Pam Thornberry and Robert Hall are fearful that a strip mall would generally attract crime and devalue the golf course and residences within the course. Their chief concern is over errant golf balls being hit over the existing net intended to catch the balls. Some golfers are capable of sending balls over the netting with occasionally balls bouncing onto Hatch Road.

Singh has secured additional liability insurance coverage which has not satisfied golf course owners. The commission required a deed restriction to make sure future owners operate under the same insurance coverage, said Community Development Director Tom Westbrook.

The golf course staff routinely picks up errant balls in Singh’s lot each week. The Thornberrys fear the course will lose its insurance if the development is approved and hinted the city could be setting itself up for liability. They have also balked at the suggestion of City Engineer Daniel Padilla that a 60-foot-tall net might block the balls, saying it won’t be enough.

A petition signed by approximately 300 persons – many of them golfers – was presented to the Planning Commission urging the city to reject Singh’s request.