By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
More delays in golf course v. neighbor
• Hearing continued for 8th time
Singh site
Surjit Singh owns the 2.7-acre site sandwiched between the River Oaks Golf Course driving range and Hatch Road and wants to build a commercial center on it. However golf course operators are protesting, saying errant golf balls will present a liability issue for them.

After nearly two years of delays, the Ceres City Council on Monday was supposed to finally consider an appeal of a city approval of a commercial center for south of the River Oaks Golf Course driving range. But the hearing was delayed again –for the eighth time.

The City Council was scheduled to consider plans of Surjit Singh to develop his property on Hatch Road located just over the netting from the River Oaks Golf Course driving range were delayed for a seventh time on Monday.

The attorneys for both parties met on March 11, said Community Development Director Christopher Hoem, and asked for continuance.

The hearing was continued to April 25.

Owners of the golf course are appealing a March 2020 Planning Commission approval for Singh to develop three retail commercial buildings sized at 3,500, 4,835 and 14,160 square feet on 2.16 acres at the south end of their driving range.

Singh’s project site is zoned from Mixed Use (MX)-2 through the Mitchell Road Corridor Specific Plan (MRCSP) which allows limited commercial such as professional offices.

Singh also owns the Punjab Plaza at Central Avenue at Pine Street.

During the 2018 update of the General Plan, Singh requested General Plan designation changes. Singh’s land had a Commercial Recreation designation in the old 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 agrees with the commission, the MRCSP amendment will make the General Plan designation and the MRCSP consistent.

Golf course owners Ken and Pam Thornberry and Robert Hall feel that a strip mall would expose the golf course to liabilities from errant golf balls sailing over the net intended to catch the balls to strike cars or people. Some golfers are capable of sending balls over the net with some 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.

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 that a 60-foot-tall net might block the balls, saying it won’t be tall enough.

The council was required to open the hearing and heard from several opponents.

Ken Thornberry spoke and said the Planning Commission failed to consider that disclosure laws require that owners of properties adjacent to golf courses must be notified of the potential for errant golf balls that could result in personal injury or property damage.

He also said the residents who live along Golf Links Road are unanimously against Singh’s project.

“The citizenry of Ceres majority agrees with our statements that the golf course is pertinent to this community over a strip mall,” said Thornberry.

Candice Fernandes said she and her neighbors are strongly opposed to the rezoning change. She said she and the residents of Golf Links Road have requested to personally meet with each of the councilmembers to discuss their opposition and concerns and “to get feedback.” She said they have met with Mike Kline, Linda Ryno and James Casey but not yet with Vice Mayor Bret Silveira or Mayor Javier Lopez.

“It is the property owners’ understanding that the issues between the developer and the golf course owners are related to liability and insurance, which are separate issues from the proposed rezoning change property owners oppose,” Fernandes told the council.

She expressed fears that without meeting with the mayor and vice mayor beforehand, they “won’t have enough time to truly and thoughtfully consider our opposition and concerns before the April 25 public hearing.”

Fernandes continued: “I hope that is not the case as we the property owners on Golf Links Road feel the proposed rezoning change would negatively impact our neighborhood community, our property values and create traffic implications for us, our guests and service providers to name a few, as well as the golf course’s business on a daily basis.”

Ryan Thornberry said the proposal is “unprecedented” and dared members to look at any golf course on Google Earth and find any development within 235 to 305 yards.

“What you are attempting to do is unprecedented,” said Thornberry.

John Warren, who doesn’t live near the project site, is concerned about the rezoning.

“Golf courses don’t mix well with strip malls,” said Warren, who believes it should be left zoned as commercial.

Singh’s attorney, Dave Romano, said that despite the zoning issue, the golf course has some liability issues with its netting but he’s hopeful that issues can be worked out before April 25.

Robert Hall, one of the co-owners of the golf course, said the city’s choice of rezoning was “short sighted – you don’t put a development at the end of a driving range and then to compound that the Planning Commission enhancing the zoning to higher density was utterly ridiculous.”

Silveira said he’s not concerned about not having enough time to collect all the information before April 25.

Previous hearing dates delayed were on April 27, June 22, July 27 in 2020; Jan. 25, April 26, Nov. 8 in 2021; and Feb. 14 of this year and Monday.

river oaks plaza 2022
The controversial development dubbed the River Oaks Plaza on the other side of the River Oaks Golf Course driving range will be heard by the council on Feb. 14.