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Rite Aid advances after challenge of conditions
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A new Rite Aid is expected to start construction by the end of summer on a Mitchell Road parcel adjacent to Ceres Fire Station #4.

The City Council approved an appeal of certain Planning Commission restrictions last week, paving the way for Halferty Development Co., to begin plans for construction. Rite Aid plans to abandon its aged store in the Save Mart Shopping Center at the corner of Mitchell Road and Whitmore Avenue. The new 17,340-square-foot store will be constructed at the northeast corner of Mitchell and Fowler.

On Jan. 20 the Planning Commission approved the Rite Aid project with a number of conditions which Halferty protested. The largest issue was the city requirement to offer a parking lot for 84 vehicles, six of which would have been on a neighboring undeveloped parcel. Halferty representatives said 70 stalls were adequate.

City Senior Planner Tom Westbrook agreed that the six stalls and planter on the parcel to the north was not necessary. City Manager Brad Kilger said that it was included from an aesthetics point of view and to set the stage for connectivity to the next lot when it develops.

"It's not an engineering requirement," said Kilger.

Kilger said the council's action was a message to the Planning Commission "thank you ... but in this particular case we feel the project's fine providing only landscaping only to the subject parcel."

The city is also requiring payment of $26,625 for the eventual undergrounding of utility lines that run through the parcel.

"I think it's a good project - let's move forward on it," said Councilman Guillermo Ochoa.

The city had hoped to encourage development of a sit-down restaurant on the site but after two years of marketing there were no takers. The city got involved in the quest because the site was originally purchased by the city for the fire station. The corner wasn't needed and sold to developer Phillip Mastagni with the caveat that he try to attract a sit-down eatery.

When Rite Aid expressed an interest in the site, in October the Ceres City Council ended a development agreement that required a restaurant on the site.

Mastagni is selling the parcel to Halferty Development Company of Paso Robles, a firm which develops stores for Rite Aid. Mastagni doesn't rule out the possibility that a sit-down restaurant might want to locate in the acre to the north that plans to keep for development.

Rite Aid submitted an application on July 28 to build a new facility to replace its aged store down the road. The existing store is too large and the chain has been unable to negotiate a lease for smaller space. Jim Halferty of Halferty Development said the existing Rite Aid is in deplorable and "embarrassing" shape. He said that Save Mart may move into the space.

Greg Smith of Coldwell Banker's commercial division said he made significant attempts to market the corner to 33 chains. There were no takers, he said, because most chains want to be within the Highway 99 corridor or at a major intersection.