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Phipps submits new map with lower density tract on golf course land
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Mike Phipps hopes to develop the land beyond this sign into a housing tract with a density of two dwellings per acre, which meets airport land use rules. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Mike Phipps, owner of River Oaks Golf Course, has asked the city to comment on a revised preliminary development plan to convert part of his Hatch Road venue into a housing tract - this time at a much lower density.

Phipps said his golf course is not unlike many courses through the state in that it is failing to operate profitably. He said developing a portion of the golf course property close to Hatch Road is a possible way to generate revenue. He hopes to convert the top nine holes and driving range into a tract home subdivision, a plan which has not been well received by those living next to the course in custom homes.

The new density calls for two homes per acre, with lot sizes ranging from 8,000 square feet to 24,923 square feet.

"To me, this is an idea that should work," Phipps told the Courier last week. "They vary in size with some over a half-acre."

Density is a key issue since the golf course is underneath the Modesto Airport approach zone and the Modesto Airport Land Use Commission has a say over what develops in that path.

Phipps said the lot sizes are newly proposed would allow for the development of "nice executive homes" that would raise the value of those living in 13 custom homes along Golf Links Road.

"If you wanted to buy a few nice homes in Ceres where are you going to do it?" asked Phipps.

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. Former Ceres fire chief Danny Davis, who purchased a lot on Golf Links Road to build his dream home, is among those opposed. Davis said 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."

City of Ceres Planning Director Tom Westbrook said no action will be taken unless Phipps files a formal application. 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.