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Stories written by will.o.harris

Village Design Group waits for funding

   Last year at this time, the Ramona Village Design Group was in full
swing, meeting with consultant Howard Blackson and preparing for a
three-day design workshop that would produce plans to transform Main
Street and highlight Ramona’s town character.

   The ambitious conceptual plans from that workshop are now sitting,
and the design group members are struggling for ideas to stay active
until the group receives a major component: money.

Board reduces price on district-owned house

   With little buyers’ interest shown in a house owned by the Ramona
Municipal Water District, district directors agreed to reduce the asking
price from $455,000 to $375,000 and to list the property with Ramona
Realtor Sharon Quisenberry.

   The four-bedroom, 3,400-square-foot ranch at 15562 Vicente Meadows
Drive was on 8.5 acres of property the district purchased in January
2009 for the future construction of brine ponds for the San Vicente
Wastewater Treatment Plant. As funding was not readily available for the
brine ponds, the board agreed to have the lot split, sell two acres
with the house, and use the proceeds from the sale for the construction
of the brine ponds.

Regulations akin to thorn in district’s side

   Government agency regulations and requirements have become somewhat of a thorn in the Ramona Municipal Water District’s side.

   The RMWD is still battling the San Diego County Air Pollution Control
District (APCD) about a notice of violation regarding the district’s
portable generator at Hedy Lane and state Route 67.

   Now the California Emergency Management Agency wants a dam break
analysis for the proposed Santa Maria Wastewater Service Area’s wet
weather storage ponds.  The analysis would cost the district
approximately $31,000.

   “It’s another example of how environmental regulations are killing
us,” Director Darrell Beck said at the district’s July 13 board meeting.

Sheep help couple bring sustainability to winery

   As Dennis and Julie Grimes produce medal-winning wines, they have
also adopted measures to bring sustainability to their Eagles Nest
Winery.
   Although the Ramona residents both work full time—Dennis Grimes as a
program manager for the U.S. Department of the Navy and Julie Grimes as a
professor teaching Internet programming at Southwestern College—they
keep abreast of the latest resources and tools in operating their
winery.
   One feature they added to their winery as part of their
sustainability program not only reduces labor and costs, but provides
amusement as well. Four sheep, all referred to as “Babydolls” because
they are Olde English Babydoll Southdown sheep, keep the grass cut and
the head-pruned vines trimmed.
   “They’re going around doing all my labor,” noted Julie. 

District reviews contracts, fees

 Ramona Municipal Water District (RMWD) directors approved an amended
agreement with the law firm that counsels the Ramona Municipal Water
District increases legal fees, includes a cost-of-living-adjustment
(COLA) provision, and eliminates a six-month review.
   “Historically our legal fees have been quite low for Ramona,” 
attorney Sophie Akins of Best, Best & Krieger LLP told the district
directors at their June 22 meeting. “For many years our rates remained
stagnant and as a result, as you noticed from our agenda memo, our
rates are significantly lower than what other water agencies are
charged by our law firm.”

Seasoned restaurateur to open mobile kitchen

   When Jim McWhorter bought the property at the corner of Third and
Main streets three years ago, he had dreams of opening a full-service
restaurant with outdoor dining, but unforeseen circumstances have
forced him to change direction—for now.
   “Everything that could go wrong went wrong when I bought the property,” McWhorter said.
   The native Ramonan at one time owned the former Old Telephone
Company Restaurant in Ramona. He purchased the property at Third and
Main Streets about six months after Di Giovanni’s Italian Ristorante
closed in 2007.
 

Residents want to keep density

   Residents of Kelly and Raymond avenues plan to attend San Diego
County Planning Commission’s hearing and Zoning Consistency Review on
July 9 to protest a proposed density increase in their area, which they
say routinely experiences flooding.
   The residents were at the Ramona Community Planning Group’s (RCPG)
meeting last month, upset with notices from the county’s Department of
Planning and Land Use (DPLU) notifying them that their zoning would
change from 3Res to VR-15.  Linda Berman, who lives on Raymond Avenue,
said the change increases the density from 2 dwellings per acre to 15
per acre.
   “This is not a good neighborhood to be doing this in,” said Berman, who noted that the area is in a floodplain.
The RCPG supported the residents’ complaints by passing a motion asking
DPLU to reconsider the zoning for that area. The RCPG also expressed
its opposition to the current General Plan Update plan based on extreme
density upzones and downzones and last-minute zoning overlay.    

Air center poses dilemma for district

   Ramona Air Center has asked the Ramona Municipal Water District
(RMWD) to consider a special taxing district to fund additional fire
protection deemed necessary for the airport’s expansion plans.
   Similar to a Mello-Roos, a Community Facilities District (CFD) “is a
financing mechanism to provide capital for development that is needed
for publicly-owned infrastructure,” public finance attorney Kim Byrens,
a partner with Best Best & Krieger LLP, explained to the RMWD board
members at their June 22 meeting.
The CFD would affect only owners or tenants of the proposed RAC development.
   The 50-acre  air center calls for construction of private and public
aircraft hangars and tie-downs for an additional 259 aircraft, along
with ancillary aircraft support facilities, to be constructed on the
north side of Montecito Road opposite the existing air field. 
   The private aviation portion would include 52 two-story and four
one-story aircraft hangars with maximum height of 40 feet, and a
4,000-square-foot clubhouse for a Hangar Owners Association. 
   The public aviation portion would include 203 aircraft hangars, a
Ramona Air Center office and deli, 15 office units and one aviation
food service building totaling 44,000 square feet. 

Governor negotiates pension reform

   Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration has reached tentative
contract agreements that call for pension reform with four state
employee unions, including those representing state firefighters and
California Highway Patrol officers.
   The agreements would require current and future employees in the
four unions to pay more of their money into their pension plan and
thereby reduce the state’s costs.
   The changes would roll back the expanded pension benefits adopted in
Senate Bill 400 in 1999 and increase pension contributions to a minimum
of 10 percent. Final retirement compensation would be based on the
highest three years of wages instead of the highest year to prevent
what is known as pension spiking.  The reform would also require new
hires to work additional years to receive full benefits.
“Governor Schwarzenegger and these four unions are to be commended for
staying at the bargaining table and working on solutions to reform the
unsustainable public pension system,” said State Sen. Dennis
Hollingsworth, who represents the 36th District, which includes Ramona.
“While the agreements will provide immediate and long-term savings to
taxpayers, there are statutory changes that still need to be made to
ensure there is not an incentive for a contract impasse in the future.
I look forward to meeting with the administration and union
representatives to review the savings and provisions contained in these
proposed contracts.”

Task force apprehensive over medical marijuana

   Members of the East County Marijuana Task Force met Monday afternoon
in El Cajon to review and discuss concerns about San Diego County’s
draft zoning ordinance and regulatory code ordinance relating to
medical marijuana dispensaries.
   A public hearing on the draft ordinance amending the Zoning
Ordinance was scheduled for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors
meeting Wednesday morning. In 2009, the supervisors placed a moratorium
on such dispensaries in the county.
   The task force, which includes members from law enforcement and
community groups such as Communities against Substance Abuse (CASA),
examined the terminology in the draft ordinance, which refers to the
facilities as “medical marijuana collectives.”  The “membership” of the
collectives was not defined, the task force found.

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