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Studies ordered for proposed hotels
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Plans for the construction of two hotels at the southwest corner of Mitchell and Service roads prompted city officials last week to order traffic and noise studies.

The city's planning staff is processing a development application for the Ceres Gateway Center which includes plans for two hotels totalling 162 rooms and 25,000 square feet of retail space in multiple pads.

Apparently no specific users have been proposed for the lodges, said Mayor Anthony Cannella.

Senior Planner Tom Westbrook said the Ogden project includes a gas station, a pad for a fast food restaurant and two restaurant style pads "but at this time none of those users of those potential developments have been identified."

One restaurant pad is being planned for 5,000 square feet and the other 5,500 square feet. Westbrook said those sizes are "more in line with an Applebee's or Chilis, those types of square footages. But I stress they have not identified the actual users, just getting pads ready for them.

"They may have done some marketing already and may have some deals. But they are not required to reveal and they haven't."

As part of the environmental review required for the development, the city has to conduct a traffic and noise study. On Tuesday, Nov. 13 the Ceres City Council hired Fehr & Peers to conduct the traffic study for $34,875.

The noise study is being conducted by Bollard Acoustical Consultants of Auburn at a cost of $5,800.

Westbrook said the project wraps around two existing houses that sit at the corner of Service and Mitchell. Westbrook said ultimately the city expects that those houses will be sold and leveled for future commercial development.

The proposed project is south of the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter proposed in Mitchell Ranch Center. Development is being pursued by Regency Center, a Florida based development company. The city has ordered environmental and economic impact reports on the 304,192 square feet shopping center totalling on the 26 acres at the northwest corner of Mitchell and Service roads. The Supercenter would occupy about 208,172 square feet as the anchor of the center with approximately 36,167 square feet of grocery sales.

The city expects the report to be before the City Council by April 2008.

Besides studying how the development would affect traffic, noise, air pollution and other environmental factors, the study has an economic component. Specifically, the city wants to know what may happen if Wal-Mart abandons its existing store at Mitchell and Hatch roads. Siebe said it's a common sense conclusion that Wal-Mart may be unable to operate two stores in Ceres, which has a population of 41,000.

Bay Area Economics (BAE) is studying the economic impacts of the proposal. Recent court decisions regarding mega stores have called cities to do a complete economic impact study to assess the fallout from Wal-Mart Supercenter's entries into California.

One task will be to determine how retailers are already faring in Ceres and area by observing customer traffic, vacancy levels in specific shopping centers and any urban decay. The study also must focus on any new commercial projects on the drawing board. BAE will also evaluate sales tax data tracked by the state Board of Equalization. The disposal income of residents, the level of sales leakage to other communities.