County planner reviews proposed changes
With the county’s General Plan Update scheduled to be presented to the board of supervisors later this year, members of the county’s Department of Planning and Land Use (DPLU) have been reviewing zoning changes, minimum lot sizes, density and other issues for Ramona.
Devon Muto, chief of advanced planning for DPLU and project manager for the General Plan Update, and Eric Lardy of the DPLU met with the Ramona Community Planning Group’s General Plan Update Subcommittee last Thursday to receive feedback.
Because a few suggested zoning changes were still undecided and needed further review, the subcommittee will be meeting again at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 18. The subcommittee will then present its recommendations to the Ramona Community Planning Group.
“We’re in the home stretch on the general plan update,” Muto told the subcommittee members.
Muto said his department is trying to resolve all the issues before the April planning commission hearing, which is when they hope to obtain final recommendations on all the maps and plans. After that, he explained, they will package all the work and are scheduled to present it to the board of supervisors this fall.
For Ramona, he said, there were three areas he wanted to review: the land use map, the initial work on zoning and the community plan.
One of the areas discussed was the potential site for a “big box” store as identified by the Ramona Village Design Group. A portion of that site, bordered by Ramona, La Brea, Day and Vermont Streets, is zoned village residential (VR 20) and could be changed to general commercial, Muto said. They would then need to offset that zoning change by designating another area residential.
“This would match the plan that Howard Blackson and the village design committee has planned,” said Muto. “They show trying to keep as much of the commercial as possible closer to Main Street and then transitioning to residential once you get off those first few blocks of Main Street.”
The subcommittee considered an area around 11th Street and A and B streets that could be changed from rural commercial to commercial residential zoning. That would still allow some flexibility, Muto said.
In previous plans, Muto said, the Ramona Intergenerational Community Center (RICC) was designated commercial and should now have a public facility designation.
While discussing the general plan, subcommittee members Angus Tobiason and Katherine Finley commented on how the rural character of Ramona is being changed by increasing density and crowding so much downtown.
Finley said the county has been steering the community toward the larger parcels and protecting open space and “cramming the future growth into the town center.”
Finley added that she, Tobiason and a lot of other residents object to such practices.
Minimum lot sizes and the infrastructure to support future building, such as water and sewer, were also discussed.
While talking about zoning, subcommittee chair Chris Anderson said she had a concern regarding animal designators, which she described as being key to the rural character of Ramona. As an example, she referred to the chicken ranches and dairy farms along Dye road and said she does not want to see such agricultural businesses pushed out due to the odors.
“We don’t want to push them out, because that’s what makes us, us,” Anderson said. “To me, I just want to make sure we don’t lose that element. That’s the overall goal that I would like to stay with our zoning. We don’t want to push out the rural lifestyle that we love.”
Muto said the staff had not delved into issues of animal or odor designators and had no intention to drastically change them unless they had substantial input from the community.
Muto also said the staff is not planning on changing zoning for the majority of the community.
According to Lardy, the department is looking at merging similar zone types and focused on the agricultural rural zone. The three use regulations—Limited Agriculture (A70), General Agriculture (A72) and General Rural (S92)—were found by the staff to be the most common use regulations found throughout the county with both the highest number of parcels and greatest extent of area.
“We’re considering merging those together into a new zone,” Lardy said.
Looking at some smaller lots, one acre or less, around town that are currently zoned A70, Lardy said they were considering applying the rural residential zone that allows cottage industries but doesn’t allow uses needing major use permits.
“These areas are smaller lots; they’re predominantly residential uses,” said Lardy. “You’re not going to find a lot of ag on these lots.”
“One of the things we’re trying to do,” explained Muto, “is use our zones where they’re actually intended to be used because if we apply agricultural zones in a bunch of residential neighborhoods, then they downplay the importance of the agricultural zone.”
Muto said it would not change the animal designation so those who were raising animals for 4-H could continue to do so. The change would just say the area is more of a residential zone than agricultural, he said.
While a homeowner could have a vineyard in a rural residential zone, he would not be able to have a boutique winery because it is a commercial element, added Muto.
Dawn Perfect expressed concern about such a zoning change that would restrict a homeowner from having a boutique winery or a farm stand. Muto suggested the committee members drive around town and look at the areas before making a decision.
If such a change is recommended, Muto said those affected property owners would be notified so they would have an opportunity to voice their opinions.
Also mentioned was the draft community plan that Lardy said went out for public review. He suggested the subcommittee might want to incorporate a description of the village design study that was done by the Ramona Village Design Group and Consultant Howard Blackson. The subcommittee members agreed and said they would be reviewing the community plan.
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