Elliott Pond landowner asks planners to endorse town square
By Karen Brainard
A town square or subdivision sprawl of entry-level homes?
That’s the choice, said Jim Hagey, who owns the 20 acres of property that includes Elliott Pond behind Stater Bros. shopping center.
The decision, he said, depends on whether Ramona Community Planning Group endorses his request to include his property in the Ramona Village Design Group’s Town Center plan of form-based codes.
“That vote is going to be very important,” said Hagey.
After owning the property for 14 years, Hagey said he has to do something. If he can’t build the town square, which he called “a fabulous opportunity” for Ramona, he will sell the property to a developer. He has had various offers, he said, with proposals to build entry-level homes and no public access to the pond if the pond remains.
Hagey didn’t get the votes he needed at the planning group’s April 3 meeting, but he hopes to be back on the planners’ agenda May 1. The April vote, taken after planners discussed the possibility of a big box retailer at the site, drew seven yes votes. Four members were absent and four voted no — Kevin Wallace, Donna Myers, Richard Tomlinson and Jim Cooper. Eight yes votes are needed for approval.
Hagey has the support of the Ramona Village Design Group, which anticipates the Town Center Document going before the county planning commission in May.
The property has residential zoning — RS-7, RS-4 and RU-24 — said Hagey. To be included in the Town Center Document of form-based codes would give him mixed-use zoning for retail and residential. Otherwise, to change the zoning, Hagey said he would have to go through the lengthy and costly discretionary permit process at the county.
During the past 14 years, Hagey has seen his dream of a pre-1940s walkable residential/retail community fade due to numerous obstacles. To build the homes he envisioned would now necessitate a selling price of $450,000 per home, he said.
“I refuse to build sprawl,” said Hagey.
At the planning group’s January meeting, he presented his idea of a town square around Elliott Pond that could include cafes with outdoor seating, a soda fountain, a wine bar or brew pub, art gallery, and small retail stores, and activities such as fishing, feeding ducks and outdoor plays. He wants to create a place where people can gather and enjoy themselves.
“It will be, I think, the glue that holds Ramona together,” Hagey said.
To make that financially viable, however, Hagey said he needs larger retailers on the southern portion of his property, and that could mean a big box store or medium-size retailers.
At the planners’ April 3 meeting, chair Jim Piva said he received a call from county Supervisor Dianne Jacob’s office to get his opinion on Hagey’s request.
Piva said to Hagey: “I think you heard very crystal clear from this body that a big box store is not what we’re looking for. We do not want a big box to take out all our small mom and pops. We want to see that developed in a proper way.”
Appearing with Hagey at the meeting were village design co-chair Carol Fowler and village design member and developer Steve Powell. Powell noted that by including the property in the form-based code, anything built would have to follow the design standards to be harmonious with buildings on Main Street.
Hagey told the Sentinel that there are many places for a large retailer in Ramona where the design standards would not pertain.
“If you go with the village design (plan), you can’t go with an ugly big box,” he said.
Fowler said she has additional information to present to the planning group to get Hagey’s item on the May 1 agenda. Piva said the agenda request will be considered.
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