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Supercenter offers more for Ceres than it takes away
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Soon and very soon, the city of Ceres will finally be deciding on whether or not to allow a Walmart Supercenter to build here.

Frankly, it's about time.

It's been years of study and talk and planning.

Now it appears that the Ceres Planning Commission is very close to setting a date for a public hearing on an application to build the 26-acre Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center with its anchor tenant, the Walmart Supercenter, at the northwest corner of Mitchell and Service roads.

There is a great deal of interest in the Supercenter and for plenty of reasons and there are many different campers in different camps. There's one camp that believes that Walmart is evil and greedy and destroying the world and therefore should not be allowed to build a Supercenter under any circumstances. There are some who fear a Supercenter will put an end to existing grocery stores in Ceres, some very long established. Then there is the camp near the project itself that is fearful that the center will disrupt life as they know it. In some cases they have exaggerated the anticipated affects of a Supercenter in an attempt to portray the project as one that will make neighbors gag on the auto exhaust, get crushed in the added traffic and continually dial 9-1-1 to report drunks staggering away from their 24-hour liquor buys and thieves running away from the mega store.

Then there are the pro-Supercenter campers who say, bring it on. They look forward to the discount prices and volume that will be offered. They also believe in the free enterprise system.

For those who live in a cave, a Walmart Supercenter is a Walmart on steroids. One would be hard pressed to name something they don't sell. In Ceres, the entire center will consist of 299,830 square feet of new retail space with the Supercenter taking up 191,430 square feet. The store expects to devote 36,167 square feet to grocery sales, including fresh produce, seafood, bakery, meat, and deli. Other services may include a bank, vision center, and hair salon.

But let's be realistic. As big as the Supercenter is, it's not that big. The Costco built in Turlock seems much larger and chances are you, reader, spend a fair amount of time and gas getting to that location 10 minutes down the highway. You might be less apt to go there after the Ceres Walmart Supercenter is built.

I was around when Ceres approved its Walmart in the early 1990s and we heard the same the "sky will fall" arguments; that Walmart would end the Ceres business community as we knew it. That empty storefronts would serve as pock marks in blighted shopping centers. Well, it didn't happen. And I can't recall seeing one Turlock grocery stores close after Costco was in operation just west of Highway 99. In fact, a Safeway is prospering a stone's throw across the freeway.

I believe when one logically weighs the pros and cons that the project - which approved would not open for another 18 to 24 months (Christmas 2012?) - offers more for Ceres than it takes away.

Let's first take a simplistic look at the so-called cons.

No doubt the center will add more traffic to Ceres, particularly on Mitchell Road and Service Road. But will it make things miserable? Hardly if you're used to the traffic already out there.

Some on Don Pedro Road say truck deliveries will make their neighborhood unbearable. Consider that truck noise will not be much of an issue considering that the loading dock is below grade, trucks will not idle past three minutes, and there is a raised landscaped berm and sound wall separating the neighborhood from the back of the Supercenter loading docks. Trucks back up to airtight docks for minimal offloading noises. Consider, too, that the added truck and shopper traffic will be managed by a new traffic signal at Mitchell and Don Pedro roads.

And when you consider that the project has been scaled down six percent from the sizes considered in the draft EIR, the impacts to the community are overstated.

Now the pros. Ceres will become more of a full service community, offering more choice and opportunity for the spending of hard-earned dollars. The store and center would encourage more people to stay in Ceres to shop and certainly draw in more shoppers from out of town. That's good when you consider those people will need to buy gas and eat out and visit other stores.

The Supercenter is expected to generate 205 NEW jobs while the entire center puts another 120 to work. At build out the center is expected to provide 580 jobs in total. And Walmart's average hourly wage in California as of September is $12.95 per hour. Full- and part-time employees are offered health and dental, profit sharing and other incentives.

While the draft EIR suggests that Ceres' sales taxes will be awash, sales taxes consistently spike in communities with new Supercenters within a year of opening.

Ultimately it's the community and its governing officials who will decide if this project becomes a reality. But I trust that people will use logic and not use hyperbole nor emotions when this project makes its way to the stage.

How do you feel? Let Jeff by e-mailing him at