Two new members of the Ceres Planning Commission received a baptism by fire last week when at their first meeting they evaluated two large development projects – a sports bar on Service Road and a combined retail development and large apartment complex on Mitchell Road.
The Jan. 17 meeting was the first for new commissioners Ruldip “R.J.” Jamma and Cerina Otreo.
The commission voted 3-2 to approve a General Plan Amendment, Vesting Tentative Parcel Map and Conditional Use Permit for a mixed use 145-unit three-story apartment complex and strip commercial project for Mitchell Road south of Della Drive. The two retail commercial buildings are proposed to be 15,230 and 13,782 square feet on three proposed parcels at 3106 Mitchell Road.
The 9.7-acre project site is the large mostly vacant parcel opposite the Ceres Post Office on Mitchell Road. Currently only a house, metal warehouse and truck operation occupy the site. Rupinder Dhillon of Tracy wants build the two retail commercial buildings closest to Mitchell Road while a 145-unit apartment complex would be constructed on the eastern half.
The Dhillon Villas application was the same design as the one approved by the Ceres Planning Commission in May 2019 but shot down by the Ceres City Council a month later. Chris Vierra was mayor when the council voted 4-1 to kill the project, citing concerns that the project would worsen traffic on Mitchell Road and the belief that the entire site should be retained for commercial use. The 2019 council also had concerns about potential conflicting traffic movements within the project and the lack of delivery vehicle access to the rear of the commercial center fronting Mitchell Road.
Commissioners Dave Johnson and Cerina Otreo voted no but the project was supported by Bob Kachel, Gary Del Nero and R.J. Jamma. Johnson expressed concerns about the ability of fire engines to access the rear of the complex in the event of emergencies. Otero cast her no vote without explanation.
The application next moves to the Ceres City Council – probably on Monday, Feb. 17 – where it must be approved before the project becomes a reality.
Community Development Director Christopher Noem noted that following the application’s rejection in 2019, Dhillon studied the market and determined that the depth of his parcel is not likely to be developed entirely for retail uses without a major anchor – something difficult to attract in the present economy. All while there is great demand for apartments in Ceres.
If built, the apartment complex is intended to serve mid- to upper-level income renters.
Sports bar project OK’d
The commission voted unanimously to approve a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to allow Haren Sanghera to build a 6,000-square-foot commercial building immediately east of Farmer Boys on Mitchell Road and directly north of the Gateway Car Wash on Service Road. A sports bar is proposed to occupy 3,600 square feet of the building while retail businesses would fill the remaining 2,400 square feet.
City staff supported the architectural design of the project saying “it incorporates a good quality texture and material color scheme that is consistent with the Mitchell Road Corridor Specific Plan.”
Apartment project kept alive
The commission also gave another two-year extension on the approval for Darrell Ledbetter’s 20-unit Cherry Hollow apartment project in the 2800 block of Blaker Road. The project site is directly east of the eastern parking lot of Blaker Kinser Junior High School.
Ledbetter wants to build five duplex units, two four-plexes and two single units. The 20 units would mean a density of 10.7 units per acre. The primary entrance and exit into the project are proposed at the north end of the site onto Blaker Road.
Hoem said that in recent years the timing hasn’t been right for Ledbetter to develop the site but that keeping the approval active enables him to build within the next two years if opportunity allows.
In 2006 Ledbetter built a duplex and five homes to the south, leaving the northern lot undeveloped. Ledbetter then received approval in 2009 to adjust the property lines of both properties to their current configurations. The undeveloped parcel increased in size but had two different zones – residential and Planning Community (PC-62). In 2016 the parcels were rezoned to PC-62 in totality.