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River Oaks protest hearings put off indefinitely
• Thornberrys still in negotiations
Protest at RO drags on
A development dubbed the River Oaks Plaza proposed at the entrance to the River Oaks Golf Course was approved by the Ceres Planning Commission in March 2020. The project approval is being appealed to the City Council.

River Oaks Golf Course’s appeal of a project proposed for a neighboring parcel will not be decided anytime soon after the Ceres City Council “indefinitely” postponed hearings at its April 25 meeting.

Owners of the golf course are appealing a March 2020 Planning Commission approval for Surjit Singh to build 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.

Hearings have been postponed for over two years by the City Council as the two parties try to come to some agreements relating to netting and liability insurance.

During the 2018 update of the General Plan, Singh requested that the city change the General Plan designation. His property 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 changes.

Singh’s site is zoned Mixed Use (MX)-2 through the Mitchell Road Corridor Specific Plan (MRCSP) which allows limited commercial such as professional offices. If the council agrees with the commission, the MRCSP amendment will make the General Plan designation and the MRCSP consistent.

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

Ken Thornberry expressed a desire to resolve the issue “as soon as possible,” saying plans to improve the golf course have been on hold pending the outcome of a decision. He indicated that part of the delay is to wait for a full City Council. It is currently missing a member.

Thornberry has stated numerous times that Singh’s project would threaten the viability of the golf course.

Community Development Director Christopher Hoem said that attorneys representing the golf course and Singh are in discussions and “agree together that they need more time to deliberate on this so they both jointly requested that this be continued to a date uncertain. This would mean that we will have to provide public notice whenever this does come back to the City Council for a final decision.”

City Attorney Tom Hallinan explained that the two parties are trying “to see if they can make a deal, for lack of a better term, to remove the appellant’s opposition to the project in general.”

He said the use of the term “indefinite” might give the impression it will not happen soon but he noted “it doesn’t have to be a long time.”

Pam Thornberry weighed in, saying her golf course is appealing the zoning “nothing to do with the applicant.”

“It has to do with us trying to protect our golf course’s driving range,” she said, “where the applicant wants to build a dense commercial building in front of it thus it will kill our golf course.”

She added, “We’re trying to reverse a bad decision. I’m sorry that the man bought the land but the problem is he saw what was there and he bought the land anyway and he’s going to try to change the landscape. It doesn’t work.”

Singh’s attorney, Dave Romano, said he agreed with the continuance.

“Indefinite sounds like a long time but what indefinite means is that it’s just not date certain,” said Romano. ”We can return to the council on short notice with a 10-day notice.”