Changes still possible, county planner tells group
By Karen Brainard
There are still opportunities to make changes to San Diego County’s now-approved General Plan Update, the Ramona Community Planning Group learned.
Devon Muto, chief of Advance Planning for the county’s Department of Planning and Land Use (DPLU), gave a
presentation on the update and fielded questions, mainly from planning group member Chris Anderson, who was upset that certain property requests in Ramona were not granted. The county Board of Supervisors approved the plan on Aug. 3.
Anderson, who has worked on the General Plan Update for Ramona for about 15 years, said on Friday that Muto gave her the tools she needed to still seek changes in land use designations in a couple of areas in Ramona.
According to Muto, the supervisors will hold a workshop on Nov. 9 to review some of the requests. In addition, he said DPLU staff will report to the board on any major issues that come up on an annual basis.
“Every two years we plan on doing cleanups to the General Plan Update,” Muto said at the group’s Aug. 4 meeting. However, he said changes will require a General Plan amendment.
Anderson confronted Muto about the county’s practices on determining which property requests or referrals to grant, saying the only two for Ramona suited the county’s needs.
At the direction of the county supervisors, DPLU prepared studies on about 232 properties in the unincorporated areas in which land use designation changes were requested, said Muto. The referrals were categorized as to the modification difficulty from a legal and processing standpoint, he said.
Those categories were listed as “minor,” causing about a two-month delay; “moderate,” initiating a two- to three-year delay; or “major,” which would be an even longer delay, he said. Of the 232 properties, Muto said they made about 50 changes, but only to ones in the minor category, including the two in Ramona.
“But those weren’t minors. Those were majors,” said Anderson. “And you guys manipulated those to become minors.”
One of the approved requests was the Gildred Ranch property, located on Highland Valley Road north of the Ramona Airport and on the western portion of the county-owned Ramona Grasslands. The county was recommending RL40 (rural land, 1 dwelling unit per 40 acres) but granted the owner’s request for SR10 (semi-rural residential, 1 dwelling unit per 10 acres).
Muto said his staff re-evaluated the Gildred ranch property and discovered the area around it had been RL40 but had since become part of the Ramona Grasslands.
“So it had nothing to do with the fact they sold a significant amount of land to the county?” Anderson asked. Anderson added that she believed the acreage was sold for a reasonable price.
Muto said that had no bearing on the decision for the density change. What also factored in, he said, was that the parcel had one owner and an environmental impact report (EIR) would not have to be re-circulated, all which contributed to re-categorizing the property request as minor.
According to board of supervisors proceedings on May 14, 2008, the supervisors authorized the acquisition of the 1,372-acre Gildred Ranch property and the 480-acre Highland Valley-Oak Country II land for a total purchase price not to exceed $2.85 million from The Nature Conservancy. County information alsoshowed that the Gildred Ranch had an appraised value of $11 million.
The other density change granted was requested by Ken Wood for property off state Route 78 west of Old Julian Highway. The approximate 219 acres were recommended for RL80 but RL40 was requested. Muto said the referral ultimately became minor because it had a single owner and the property dropped down into RL40 lands for one unit per 40 acres rather than one unit per 80 acres.
Anderson asked if the owner had donated land for the Intermountain Fire Department and if that had sway over the decision, but Muto said he was unaware of any such donation.
According to longtime Intermountain Fire & Rescue Department board member Ron Peterka, the county leases 1-1/2 acres of Wood’s land for $1 a year for the department’s fire station, which is then subleased for the same amount to Intermountain.
Anderson said she had no issue with either of the two approved requests. However, one of the areas she has continually fought for over the years is the Bunny King Lane area located north of the Barnett Ranch Wildlife Corridor along San Vicente Road, she said.
The Bunny King area has been designated SR10 but the planning group has requested it be SR4 (1 dwelling unit per four acres). The county categorized that request as moderate. One of the issues, Muto said, is that it is not single ownership.
According to Anderson, the SR10 density was given because the county said it needed a corridor for wildlife, but since then the nearby Barnett Ranch and Monte Vista Ranch have become large permanent open space. The Bunny King area is no longer needed for a wildlife corridor, she said, and the property owners should have rights to their land.
Muto replied that staff would need board direction to add densities.
Anderson said she had a similar density request for property on the other side of San Vicente Road.
Planning Group Chair Jim Piva said that in a meeting with Supervisor Dianne Jacob, she indicated those two areas could be addressed in the Nov. 9 workshop.
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