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Resident protests proposed corner drug store
Ceres planners gave thumbs-up last week to a new 16,813-square-foot CVS Pharmacy for the northwest corner of Hatch Road and Central Avenue. But at least one resident of the area is protesting the project, saying the traffic and over-saturation of corner drug stores in Ceres is too much.

The new building is proposed immediately west of the Walgreen's drug store. The store, featuring a double pharmacy drive-thru lane, would replace the CVS store (formerly Long's Drugs) now in the 1970s era building at 1640 E. Hatch Road. The site for the new CVS store would have to be cleared of two houses.

The application comes as construction is taking place on a new Rite Aid on Mitchell Road at Fowler Road.

"Merely to allow a duplicate business to set up shop does not appear to be the type of smart growth needed at this time," said Mary Martinez, a resident of Central Avenue. She is protesting the project, citing concerns about more traffic at Hatch and Central. She's also concerned about safety with competing entrances to both the existing Walgreen's and the proposed CVS.

"With six pharmacies in Ceres already, it is questionable whether another is even needed, not to mention sitting directly across from essentially an identical business," said Martinez. "But my main concern is the traffic and the safety of the area residents."

A traffic study on the proposal - it concludes there would be no "significant impact" - fails to accurately look at traffic conditions, she commented.

On Oct. 18 the commission gave its blessings to a general plan amendment, a prezone from residential to Neighborhood Commercial and an architectural and site plan approval. Commissioners Gary Del Nero, Bob Kachel, Hugo Molina and Laurie Smith voted for the project while Mike Kline cast a lone "no" vote. The matter goes to the Ceres City Council at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 8.

Wilderman & Simile LLC of Modesto is the applicant of the project, which involves annexing seven parcels at the corner to the city. Presently the land is part of a county island.

The issue of annexation is one of the central factors in the application. The seven parcels are part of a larger 51-acre county island which the Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) would like to see annexed to the city. The city was initially interested in pursuing the 51-acre annexation but put on the brakes with the recession, stating the city cannot financially take on the area. The city is willing, however, to take on the 9.6 acre parcels that will make up the CVS project. LAFCO is willing to approve the smaller annexation in the hopes the city eventually annexes the rest, said Planner James Michael.

For the seven parcels to be annexed, at least 50 percent of the landowners must approve.