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River Oaks wins approval for used as event venue
Planning Commission OKs permit in 4-0 vote

Preparations are being made to use River Oaks Golf Course for a wedding and party venue now that the Ceres Planning Commission has approved the use.

The commission voted 4-0 (Hugo Molina was absent) on March 21 to approve the application for a conditional use permit, which had support of the neighbors along the golf course, for a 2,500-square-foot event tent adjacent to the club house.

Officially the name of the venue is now River Oaks Golf Course & Event Center.

Last year the Thornberry and Hall families took ownership of the Ceres golf course and developed ideas to make the course more profitable. Because the golf course was allowed under the original conditional use permit from 1978 and did not include event center activities, the city told the owners that a new conditional use permit would be needed.

The golf course will continue to operate as a golf course from sunrise to sunset year round but the commission said it's okay to designate a separate area of the property for "foot" golf activity. The River Oaks Golf Course Event Center may also host weddings and wedding receptions, birthday or corporate parties, smaller private/invitation only events, food and barbecue events, and live music events. The events would be limited to Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Any events beyond those times would require a Temporary Use Permit (TUP).

The Ceres Chamber of Commerce plans to hold its Smoke on the River barbecue event at the facility on Saturday, Aug. 27.

Ken Thornberry said plans are to build a large amphitheater on the bluff below the clubhouse for outdoor concerts.

The 18-hole golf course and driving range - located on Hatch Road in Ceres along the south bank of the Tuolumne River - was developed in 1979 by Jim and Carol Phipps. Their son, Rob Phipps, who was a member of the City Council, took over management of the course. When Rob died in late 2007, brother Mike Phipps became the manager. Mike raised hackles in the community - especially homeowners along Golf Links Road - when word leaked in 2013 that he wanted to develop 70 custom home lots on the upper nine-hole course because River Oaks was struggling financially. Those plans never materialized and Mike died in 2015.