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Plans for gas station next to Flyers nixed
• Car wash approval still stands
Revoked permit
A permit that was approved in December for a proposed car wash in the vacant lot immediately west of the Flyers station on Whitmore Avenue will stand but the gas station approval was revoked by the Ceres City Council on Monday. - photo by Courtesy of the city of Ceres

A controversial plan to build a gas station next door to the Flyers station on Whitmore Avenue was nixed Monday evening by the Ceres City Council. However, the car wash approved by the Planning Commission in December on an adjacent property may proceed.

The Gill family, owners of the Flyers station, filed an appeal of the Dec. 4 commission approval of the two projects and came away from Monday’s public hearing with a partial victory.

City Attorney Nubia Goldstein clarified that the appeal would only be limited to the gas station since the commercial zoning allows that use by conditions but the car wash wasn’t subject to appeal since it is a permitted use in the zoning ordinance.

Mayor Javier Lopez, and Council members Rosalinda Vierra and Daniel Martinez supported the appeal, saying another gas station would adversely affect residents in that area.

Vice Mayor Bret Silveira opposed the appeal while Councilman James Casey abstained due to a conflict of interest.

On Dec. 4 the commission voted 5-0 to subdivide 8.66 acres at 1200 E. Whitmore Avenue into five parcels with a car wash on one parcel and gas station and convenience store on the other. Both projects were proposed for parcels fronting Whitmore Avenue west of Flyers while the vacant land to the south would remain ear-marked for future commercial uses.

Ajmer Gingh Randawa of Mountain House, who won approval for his project in December, on Monday urged the council to reject the appeal. He said he and his team worked “tirelessly” for nearly two years on the project which he noted was approved as consistent with zoning laws and going through proper procedures.

Randawa’s Conditional Use Permit (CUP) will not be issued for the 4,500-square-foot store with 16-pump gas station and 17 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. But he can proceed with plans for the 4,000-square-foot car wash with 18 vacuum stalls.

Hardeep Gill, one of Flyers’ owners, claimed his family wanted to buy the adjacent property in November 2021 with hopes of building a car wash but allegedly Community Development Director Christopher Hoem told them that a car wash would not be allowed because of noise impacts to nearby residences.

The Gills claim they told the city they would buy the adjacent lands to prevent another gas station from being built there and were told that wouldn’t happen because of the proximity to the Flyers. Given that information, the Gills dropped plans to buy the property “because nobody could compete with us.”

When they learned of the Dec. 4 commission action in the Courier, they immediately filed a protest and wondered why they weren’t notified the projects were before the commission.

Gill said he counted five gas stations within a mile of Flyers and six convenience stores.

“The city denied us from building the car wash that it had unanimously approved,” said Gill. “Also told us another retail store would never be allowed which hindered our decision to not buy the property because we were not going to be allowed to build anything we wanted to build.”

A number of residents told the council that Ceres already has too many gas stations and some questioned the need for more given the state’s push toward electric vehicles. At least one resident in the Westpointe master plan area said she wanted to see a grocery store on the property.

Carolina Estrada said the car wash would adversely affect neighboring homes and there was no reason for a gas station next to an existing one.

Councilman Martinez agreed that there are enough gas stations on the west side. He also suggested the city dropped the ball in communicating with neighbors.

Vierra argued that the Ceres Municipal Code allows gas stations in close proximity if on opposite corners.

Mayor Lopez said he doesn’t want to see problems like this occur again and is pressing for the council and commission to meet for better understanding on the council’s goals. He said he preferred to see a grocery store on the property to serve those on the west side. 

“ ... allowing another gas station next to your gas station is not a a part of the vision of the city of Ceres."
Ceres Mayor Javier Lopez

“I do believe that for us to be okay with allowing another gas station next to your gas station is not a a part of the vision of the city of Ceres,” said Mayor Lopez told Randawa.

Before voting against the appeal, Vice Mayor Silveira argued that he makes decisions based on “the facts, figures and the information that was provided, not using feelings.”

“I am looking at this project as a project by a developer that’s consistent with the General Plan, consistent with the current zone designation, no adverse effect on surrounding properties – which you all disagree, obviously – conditions stated to protect the public health, safety and general welfare, and develops undeveloped property, which this is considered infill,” said Silveria.

Noting that he was about to be outvoted, he stated that he hopes the developer builds the car wash.

“We have a lot of car washes in Ceres but we don’t have one on the west side,” stated the vice mayor.

Vierra, who lives on the west side, said she also would like to see the car wash develop.

The matter will come back for official denial of the project based on findings, said Goldstein. Martinez included in his motion to approve the appeal based on adverse effects on surrounding business owners and home owners.

Whitmore appeal
Days after the Ceres Planning Commission approved a car wash and gas station in the vacant parcels west of the Flyers station on Whitmore Avenue, owners of the existing station promptly filed an appeal. They won a partial victory when the council granted the appeal of the gas station approval. The car wash was a permitted use and could not be appealed. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/ Courier file photo