In a 6-0 vote, San Diego County Planning Commission on July 31 supported the removal of 1.65 miles of Montecito Road from the Circulation Element of the county’s general plan.
If the San Diego County Board of Supervisors approves removing the road from about 1,000 feet west of Montecito Way to Rangeland Road from the map, County Airports could make operational improvements to Ramona Airport to augment safety and security requirements, states a county Department of Planning and Land Use (DPLU) overview.
“The exciting stuff can now begin,” said County Airports Director Pete Drinkwater. “We have lots of improvements planned for Ramona Airport that will enhance the value of the airport as a public asset to the community.”
In addition to the need for the supervisors to approve the removal of that portion of Montecito Road from the Circulation Element, the supervisors would need to vacate the road easement dedication of the theoretical portion of Montecito Road that bisects the airport. That vacation proposal is currently being processed at the county staff level.
The Circulation Element lists Montecito Road as a light collector between Main Street/State Route 67 and Rangeland Road.
Approximately 4,000 feet of that exists only as a planned road and another 1,900 feet exists as a dirt path.
The portion to be removed from the Circulation Element would run for approximately 8,700 feet, and is referred to as SC 931. Although most of the planned adjustments to the county’s Circulation Element will be handled during the update of the county’s General Plan, the early removal of the Montecito Road portion from the Circulation Element will allow County Airports to implement safety improvements as early as possible.
In addition to the removal of the road segment from the Circulation Element and the road vacation, the airport improvements will be preceded by a Federal Aviation Administration grant, and County Airports policy is to wait until the design phase is close to completion before applying for grants so that a more accurate grant request can be made.
The road vacation will likely reserve a Ramona Municipal Water District easement; the water district owns several parcels between the airport’s western boundary and Rangeland Road that are used for wastewater disposal spray fields. Other nearby parcels are now part of the Ramona Grasslands open space preserve, and traffic studies indicated that the portion of Montecito Road west of Montecito Way would no longer be needed as a Circulation Element road.
“The road is no longer needed or wanted,” said Brian Baca, the chief of regulatory planning for the county’s Department of Planning and Land Use. “The traffic generators that were going to be accommodated by this road no longer exist.”
According to DPLU, acquisition of large parcels of grasslands to the north and west and changes in land use were not anticipated when the Montecito Road extension to Rangeland Road was included in the current general plan.
A public/private aviation project is planned at the airport between the county and Ramona Air Center LLC for buildings to house hangars that will be available for purchase and lease. A restaurant and aviation office also are among plans for the project.
The Planning Commission’s July 31 action also accepted the environmental Negative Declaration for removing the road segment from the Circulation Element. A separate environmental document will be needed for any airport projects.
The separation of subsequent actions from the decision to remove the road segment from the Circulation Element caused some concern to Erik Sprangers, who owns property on Montecito Road.
“I’m not necessarily against any of the development,” Sprangers said. “What I’m asking is we incorporate some sort of keyhole or cul-de-sac or turnout zone.”
Sprangers would be willing to sell some of his frontage for that turnout zone but dislikes the idea of a dead-end road.
“All vehicles will have to use my property,” he said.
County Airports indicated support for Sprangers’ recommendation. County Department of Public Works traffic engineer Bob Goralka also intends for Sprangers’ concerns to be met.
“This is the first step of several actions,” Goralka said. “It removes the corridor for future extension of the road. It does not change the existing alignment.”
Drinkwater noted that the most important part of the action was removing the encumbrance that bifurcated the Ramona Airport property.
“Now the airport has the opportunity to develop further aviation land,” he said. “We’re grateful that this now has cleared and we can proceed forward.”
The Ramona Community Planning Group (RCPG) on June 12, 2006, voted to support deleting the 1.65-mile portion of Montecito Road from the map as part of the General Plan Update. On April 2, 2009, the Ramona group recommended approval of the general plan amendment, but said a northern emergency evacuation route for the community should be developed.
RCPG Chair Chris Anderson is expected to update the group at its meeting tonight, Aug. 6, on progress the county has made on an emergency access route that crosses the grasslands and is accessed from Montecito Way.
“Additionally, a small extension of the road needed to facilitate an ultimate connection to Rangeland Road has been approved by the USFWS (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) as long as mitigation measures are incorporated to avoid impacts to Stephen’s kangaroo rat,” Trish Boaz, chief of the county Department of Parks and Recreation’s Resource Management Division told Anderson and other officials in an e-mail last week.
The county still needs to work to secure permission from private property owners to access the existing dirt road to connect to Rangeland Road, Boaz said.
Maureen Robertson contributed to this report.