Modesto -- A proposed 170,000-square-foot shopping center in northeast Modesto may seem like a positive sign for the local economy.
But it has run into stiff opposition from Naraghi Lake area residents who live near the 18-acre site, situated at the southwest corner of Sylvan Avenue and Oakdale Road.
Monday, the city Planning Commission will consider a staff recommendation to rezone the property for The Marketplace shopping center, which would feature a full-service grocery store, shops, other retail stores and restaurants. City Council approval is required for the rezone.
Residents charge that the proposed center conflicts with the original plan for the Naraghi Lake area and subdivision and will intrude on their neighborhood with delivery trucks, noise, glare and other problems.
"A lot of homeowners bought their homes on the master plan and now that has all been changed," said Melanie Miller, whose Waterfall Court residence is across the street from a proposed entrance to the center.
Her husband, Douglas, predicted that delivery trucks and shoppers will take Hashem Drive en route to the center. A study shows the residential street will receive triple the amount of traffic, he said.
Residents aired their concerns at a meeting held by the developers at Beyer High School in April, but the homeowners said virtually no changes were made to the plans.
Since the Naraghi Lake (or "Naraghi Lakes") development was approved in the late 1970s, the City Council has flip-flopped on what should be built at the southwest corner of Sylvan and Oakdale.
In 1979, the council approved condominiums and cluster homes there to blend with the single-family homes to the west, but the project never materialized.
The council approved rezones for the property in 1981 and 1987 to allow for shopping centers that never were built. Signs appeared in 1992 announcing Raley's intention to build at the vacant corner, but Raley's went elsewhere and the site reverted to the residential zoning.
Letters of protest signed
Berberian Holdings submitted the recent plan for the larger shopping center after purchasing the site from Naraghi Development Group in 2010. The proponents have not identified the grocery chain that would anchor the center in a 51,000-square-foot building, but have said there is a need for commercial businesses in northeast Modesto.
"The property has evolved since the original inception of the Naraghi Lake plan," said Patrick Kelly, planning manager for Modesto. "There were two neighborhood commercial centers that were approved, although they were smaller than the current proposal, so there is some precedent for seeing commercial at Oakdale and Sylvan."
According to a staff report, the proponents have tried to address neighborhood concerns with the plan for the center. Civil engineer Dave Romano, who is representing Berberian, could not be reached for comment.
Twenty nearby homeowners signed recent letters to City Hall protesting the rezone, including Niniv Tamimi, a real estate developer who lives in the neighborhood.
Tamimi said the original Naraghi Lake development planned for commercial businesses at The Lakes Shopping Center, at Floyd Avenue and Oakdale, with adjacent higher-density housing to buffer it from the homes. No such buffer exists for the Sylvan and Oakdale site, which originally was planned for condominiums or town houses, he said.
The previous center, calling for the Raley's store, was half the size of the one going before the Planning Commission on Monday, he added.
"To impose this on an established residential neighborhood is just not right," Tamimi said. "It would seem that the wishes and desires and concerns of established residents should weigh pretty highly, but we don't feel we are getting that response from the city."
Need for center questioned
The residents question the need for the shopping center, given all the vacant storefronts in Modesto. Besides the traffic, noise and glare from the proposed center, residents fear their neighborhood will be strewn with shopping carts.
Kelly said the applicants have met or exceeded the city's landscaping and architectural requirements and the submitted plans were intended to address neighborhood concerns. To minimize noise, loading areas for the grocery store on the south side of the center would be located away from the homes.
A masonry wall and layers of ground cover, shrubs and trees are planned on Hashem Drive. Residents have asked for the developers to remove a driveway for the center on Hashem, but city staff is recommending the driveway.
The plan calls for trucks delivering goods to the supermarket to use a service driveway off Oakdale Road. But residents doubt that will keep trucks from rumbling past their homes on Hashem.
"You know how that goes," Douglas Miller said. "They are going to bend the rules."
The Planning Commission meets at 6 p.m. Monday in the basement chamber of Tenth Street Place, at 1010 10th St.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2321.