Business, roads top candidates’ wish list
By Karen Brainard
Seven of the 10 candidates running for the Ramona Community Planning Group (RCPG) responded to questions on topics that included community growth and character at a forum hosted by the Ramona Equine Industry Network (REIN).
Overall, most agreed growth is inevitable but believe Ramona’s rural character can be retained. They also support the wine and equestrian communities and small business development.
Held in Ramona Community Center on Sept. 20, the candidates’ forum drew an audience of about 15. Participating in the forum were incumbents Richard Tomlinson, Jim Piva, and Torry Brean, and challengers Jim Cooper, Barbara Jensen, Kathy DaSilva, and Robin Joy Maxson. Donna Myers and incumbents Paul Stykel and Eb Hogervorst did not participate.
The candidates began by introducing themselves.
As a registered civil engineer, Tomlinson said he does a lot of work outside of Ramona on roads.
“I think what makes me special is I have technical knowledge that none of the other members have. I have a lot of expertise in drainage which is a major problem here in Ramona,” Tomlinson said.
He also said, “I truly believe if you plan properly, you can help preserve the environment.”
Piva, who serves as chair of the RCPG, noted that he has been a resident and business owner in town for the past 30 years.
“I think the attitude of the planning group is we’re here to serve the community. We’re not here to dictate to the people coming before us,” Piva said.
Many do not realize the RCPG is only advisory to the county, he added.
Jensen has lived in Ramona for 20 years and is a real estate agent with Century 21 San Vicente. Jensen said her husband and their sons are all Ramona High School graduates.
“I just love Ramona and I just want to be a part of the planning group,” she said.
Cooper, a retired U.S. Navy captain, has lived in Ramona since 1979. He has worked in the health care industry and is a member of the Ramona Design Review Board. Cooper said he has read all the RCPG minutes since 2003.
“My purpose in running is to seek quantifiable answers to the subjects that are being reviewed,” Cooper said.
Communication between the community and the planning group is vital, he added.
DaSilva moved to Ramona three years ago from Harmony Grove and said she was instrumental in preventing Escondido from annexing and industrializing land in Harmony Grove.
“I believe in really listening to what the community wants,” said DaSilva, a carriage horse driver and trainer.
The candidate also said she is not one to block every project.
“I’d rather shape how it happens rather than block,” she said.
Maxson said her work as a behavioral health manager has given her the opportunity to work with a variety of people.
“I work to provide solutions and present options,” said Maxson. “One of my strong points is the ability to see what can be done despite obstacles.”
Maxson is vice president of Ramona Trails Association and a member of the RCPG West Subcommittee.
Brean, a fourth generation Ramonan, has been a member of the planning group since 2006. He noted that meetings used to last until midnight and bickering prevented business from being accomplished.
“I’m proud to say that has changed quite significantly,” he said.
Brean added that there is still a lot of work to do: roads are dangerously congested, and county bureaucracy prevents a small businesses from opening. Brean is a member of the Ramona Village Design Group.
Candidates were asked what they could do to retain Ramona’s character as the town grows.
Cooper said, “I don’t believe we’re going to stop growth.” He said one reason he wanted to be on the design review board is to look at building structures coming in to make sure they stay Old Town- or Ramona-focused.
Jensen said a balance is needed between growth and keeping the town’s character. Piva pointed out that Ramona has a well thought-out community plan and the RCPG has fought projects that do not fit in with the plan.
“I think we just need to be careful that we oppose any efforts to re-zone or change our community character,” said Tomlinson. “I think we have a pretty good plan right now.”
Maxson said exceptions to the zoning rules should be reviewed on an individual basis and weighed for the best decisions.
How would they want Ramona to change in the next 10 years?
More business opportunities and transportation improvements topped the list. Piva said the area by the Ramona Airport could be developed and provide some employment opportunities for young people.
Brean said he would like to see increased vibrancy in the downtown areas of A, B and D Streets.
“I think if we had a better economic environment within the town, we could gradually start seeing those areas become better,” Brean said.
Maxson agreed and noted Ramona’s downtown doesn’t draw people in.
“I would love to see increased development in downtown,” she said.
DaSilva said she would like to see Main Street have greater walkability, and Cooper said he supports increased activities for youth. Cooper also noted that he does not support the proposed southern bypass because it would take traffic away from the downtown and businesses.
When asked how they support the vintners, the candidates noted that the wineries and vineyards appear to be good for Ramona’s agriculture and to attract tourism.
Candidates were also questioned about what they would do to grow the equestrian community.
DaSilva said she would like to see a path with visual barriers along San Vicente Road to Barnett Ranch. Maxson said the RCPG can support the Ramona trail connectivity plan and the county equine ordinance.
Cooper, Piva, and Jensen talked about achieving a balance between equestrians and non-equestrians.
Piva and Brean said they support property rights. Brean said he believes the greatest risk is the loss of lot sizes that support the equine or livestock lifestyle.
Candidates were asked what they would do to increase safety on State Route 67, which travels through multiple jurisdictions.
Maxson suggested the RCPG work with the other jurisdictions. She has volunteered to be on a Highway 67 safety subcommittee and has proposed warning lights on slippery curves.
Piva said he helped to form an ad hoc Highway 67 subcommittee that has worked with Caltrans, County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, and others to discuss improvements to the highway. Recently, funding was obtained for a report to improve the Highway 67 and Dye Road intersection, he noted.
Tomlinson said Highway 67 discussions bring out a lot of anger, and a consensus is needed. “I think the number one thing the RCPG can do going forward is try to unite the voice of Ramona,” he said.
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