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Planners approve church on Evans Road
• Interchange forced St. Gewargis Church to move
Assyrian Church of the East
An architectural rendering of the church proposed for 1748 Evans Road east of Richland Avenue.

Planners have approved the building of a 7,539-square-foot church building proposed by the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East and a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for the church to continue operating the existing Evanshire wedding event venue at 1748 Evans Road.

All five members of the Ceres Planning Commission voted on Monday to approve the project.

The church has been in Ceres since 1998 but had to find a new church because of the Service Road/Highway 99 interchange project that will result in the building being razed. The city purchased the former site for the interchange project.

The new church site of Saint Gewargis Church, will be sized for a maximum capacity of 285 occupants. Three classrooms will be included for religious education and meetings throughout the week. Plans call for the sanctuary to be near Evans Road, oriented facing the west with the parking lot butting up to the back of property lines of El Monte Avenue homes. The Evanshire Mansion sits in the middle of the site to the south of the future church building.

The project is proposed for a five-acre site south of the Evans Road and east of Richland Avenue.  The site is currently developed as a wedding event venue with well-maintained landscaping with several buildings linked with the wedding event venue (that will be maintained as part of the overall project).  The property is surrounded by single-family homes and the former Memorial Hospital Ceres to the south. 

The property has a zoning designation of Administrative Professional (A-P), and a General Plan designation of Medium Density Residential (MDR).  Since the proposal is for a new church building while maintaining the existing wedding event venue, approval of a new CUP is required.  If the wedding event venue were not being requested, the application would have been a Site Plan Approval as churches are a permitted use in the “A-P” zoning designation. 

Community Development Director Tom Westbrook said the proposal is consistent with General Plan policies, including promoting infill development to protect farmland to reduce pressure to develop on farmland or other “greenfield” sites on the periphery. 

Some residents attended Monday’s meeting and expressed concerns about noise from the mansion operation. The CUP requires all music to stop at 10 p.m. and that no amplified music is permitted on the main law used for weddings. Because weddings are allowed under a CUP, the city reserves the right to review the CUP as the need arises, based on any complaints received relating to wedding gatherings.  The city could impose new conditions or revoke the CUP for the wedding event venue if problems arise and cannot be dealt with.