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For seventh time, hearing on proposal to build center near driving range delayed
• Hearing to be continued but no date has been picked
River Oaks project
A development dubbed the River Oaks Plaza at the entrance to the River Oaks Golf Course was approved by the Ceres Planning Commission in July 2020. The project approval is being appealed to the City Council. If built, it would be just south of the golf course driving range.

Plans to develop a Hatch Road commercial site located just over the netting from the River Oaks Golf Course driving range were delayed for a seventh time on Monday.

Owners of the golf course are protesting the building of the commercial strip mall on 2.16 acres at the south end of their driving range near Hatch Road. 

On Monday the Ceres City Council was scheduled to consider plans of Surjit Singh to develop his property but the matter was postponed to an undetermined date in the future.

This was the seventh time the matter has been scheduled for public hearing and postponed. Both the applicant and appellant have requested the delay because the City Council was short a member on Monday. That vacancy was expected to be filled on Tuesday after this edition of the Courier went to press. Previous hearing dates delayed were on April 27, 2020, June 22, 2020, July 27, 2020 and Jan. 25 and April 26 this year.

The Ceres Planning Commission voted 4-1 in March 2020 to approve plans to develop three retail commercial buildings sized at 3,500, 4,835 and 14,160 square feet. The owners of the golf course have appealed that decision and the City Council has the final say.

The council did open a public hearing at which time Ceres resident John Osgood complained about the continual delays and ask the council to make a decision by next month. City Attorney Tom Hallinan said the city has to factor in a required waiting time to reschedule the hearing.

The project site is zoned from Mixed Use (MX)-2 through the Mitchell Road Corridor Specific Plan which allows limited commercial such as professional offices.

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

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 old General Plan and the asked that it be changed to Community Commercial. 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 are fearful that a strip mall would generally attract crime and devalue the golf course and residences within the course. Their chief concern is that errant golf balls sailing over the net intended to catch the balls, will strike cars or people. Some golfers are capable of sending balls over the net with some 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 tall enough.