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Project finally to be heard Feb. 14
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.

Numerous delays in the appeal of a Ceres Planning Commission approval of a new commercial project near the River Oaks Golf Course driving range will end when the City Council hears the matter on Monday, Feb. 14.

In March 2020, the Ceres Planning Commission voted 4-1 to rezone the 2.16-acre site south of the driving range and approved a tentative map and site plan for a proposed commercial development. Owners of the golf course, who feel the development of the neighboring property threatens the viability of the recreational facility, have appealed.

The matter has been delayed seven times because of COVID and an incomplete council. Previous hearing dates delayed were on April 27, 2020, June 22, 2020, July 27, 2020, Jan. 25, 2021 and April 26 2021.

The City Council will need to weigh in on an amendment to the MRCSP. That hearing will now be held next month.

Owners of the golf course are protesting Surjit Singh’s proposal to build a commercial strip mall on his property just over the net from their driving range north of Hatch Road. Singh plans to develop three retail commercial buildings sized at 3,500, 4,835 and 14,160 square feet.

The site is zoned from Mixed Use (MX)-2 through the Mitchell Road Corridor Specific Plan which allows limited commercial like professional offices. Singh, owner the Punjab Plaza at Central Avenue at Pine Street, elected to request an amendment of the MRCSP designation to Community Commercial (CC) to allow more of a wider range of commercial uses.

During the 2018 update of the General Plan, Singh was one of a handful of property owners who requested General Plan designation changes.  Singh’s land had a Commercial Recreational designation in the former General Plan and asked that it be changed to Community Commercial. Both the Planning Commission and City Council approved the changing of the General Plan designation from Commercial Recreational to Community Commercial.

If the council follows in the commission’s footsteps, the MRCSP amendment will make the General Plan designation and the MRCSP consistent.

Golf course owners Ken and Pam Thornberry and Robert Hall fear that a strip mall would generally attract crime and devalue the golf course and residences within the course. Their chief concern, however, is over errant golf balls sailing over the existing net intended to catch them. Some golfers are capable of sending balls over the netting with balls occasionally 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 enough.

A petition signed by approximately 300 persons – many of them golfers – was presented to the Planning Commission urging the city to reject Singh’s request.