Concerns that someone could get killed in a crash since city planners failed to align the Service Road entrance/exit at the Walmart Supercenter with the neighboring shopping center to the south were voiced by Ceres Vice Mayor Bret Silveira Monday evening.
Saying that drivers are making “crazy turns” that are likely illegal between the two opposing shopping center, Silveira called for the city to take action to correct the dangerous condition – at city expense – “as soon as possible.” He also claimed the misalignment wasn’t Walmart’s mistake.
“We need to fix it,” insisted Silveira. “There’s been several near crashes and crashes already in that intersection. We have got to fix that as soon as possible. That’s the thing that I hear about more than anything right now because of all of the development and traffic on Service Road. We need to fix that intersection. If we need to pay for it, we need to pay for it.”
Christopher Hoem, director of Community Development, said the city had sent a letter to Walmart requesting that their driveway be moved but the company has refused, adding “so if the City Council would like to move forward in ... fixing that problem through city funds, we can have that conversation.”
The matter came up during an agenda item in which the council was asked to declare three city-owned properties as “surplus land” since the city has no plans for their use. Chief among the three properties is a 2.46-acre parcel at 2807 E. Service Road located immediately west of the Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center now only consisting of the Walmart Supercenter.
Hoem suggested the parcel could be used as leverage in getting Walmart to move its only southern entrance. However, Silveira insisted that the surplus parcel be left out of the discussion as a different issue.
“That’s our responsibility because it was poorly designed. If we offer to Walmart that the city will pay for that, maybe they’ll agree. I’m guessing it wasn’t offered to them that way.”
Mayor Javier Lopez agreed, saying: “We should move forward to replace that intersection. It’s bad for the community. I’m getting the same emails, the same DMs (direct messages).”
The problem occurs when drivers try to maneuver from one parking lot to the other and zigzag across traffic since there is no direct access via a four-way signalized intersection. Mayor Lopez noted that Public Works Director Sam Royal has tried to rectify traffic conflicts problem with signage but people are “just not paying attention to signs.”
City Manager Doug Dunford said that since Walmart owns the property, the city “can’t just automatically put a road in there so we’re trying to work something out with them.”
One of the ideas is to sell the city parcel to Walmart to offset the city’s cost of realignment and a new four-way signalized intersection with Ceres Gateway Center to the south and also moving Walmart’s drainage basin.
Dunford said Walmart has plans to build a service station right where the city wants to realign entrances. A misalignment could also affect the basin used to collect storm water from the Supercenter parking lot.
In order for the city to see if Walmart is interested in using the land, Dunford said the city must first declare the adjacent parcel as surplus.
Declaration of public land is governed by the state Surplus Land Act which intends to prioritize development of affordable housing and open space on the surplus land of public agencies. The act requires local agencies, prior to selling surplus land, to follow certain procedures so designated entities receive the first opportunity to express interest and negotiate with the local agency.
The council wrapped up the entire discussion by tabling the declaring of the properties as surplus.
The two other parcels proposed as a surplus designation are:
• A 0.86-acre lot at 2732 Fifth Street, just south of the Clinton Whitmore Mansion;
• A vacant lot at the northwest corner of Arthur Way and Hollister Street consisting of 0.17 acres. The vacant property is the former site of a city well which was removed and could be used for residential development.
Building apartments on the site south of the Whitmore Mansion property would fit in with the Ceres Downtown Specific Plan’s quest to add more residents to the oldest area of Ceres.
In 2008 the Ceres Planning Commission approved plans to build a 30-unit senior citizens complex on the site after changing the zoning from R-4, or High Density Residential, to P-C, or Planned Community. Proponents of the project, Cary and Nancy Pope, didn’t develop the complex.
The parcel at 2761 Sixth Street, opposite Walter White Elementary School, was originally included to be declared as surplus but Hoem said the city has plans to retain the parcel for water vessels.