Thoughtful progress, not urban sprawl

By Carole Wylie

This is in response to an e-mail that I received on April 30, 2009, concerning the proposed retail development that is being called “The Target Center” by many Ramona citizens.

The e-mail began,  “Please forward this to any and all friends here in Ramona!  A local, well-respected developer out of La Jolla has assumed the responsibilities for getting our Target center up and running.  They are already working with the City (this would actually be the County of San Diego) on this. They are coming to present to the Ramona Planning Committee on Thursday, May 7, at 7 p.m.”

As a Ramona citizen and architect who has had much experience with planning and community development, I am not opposed to the development coming to Ramona. In fact, I think it is important for our town to become more self-sufficient, but I am opposed to the location and to the scale that they are proposing.

The center is being planned too far away from our town center and it has been proven over many years that this type of urban sprawl destroys towns.  Have you noticed what happened to Poway?  One strip center after another was built in a long line with no true town center!  And if you paid attention over the past 20-30 years, you would have noticed that when one center became old and worn, they just left it empty and built a new one further out of town.  

Do we want this for Ramona? Also, there is no guarantee that Target is coming. This project site could become “entitled” only to make the developers a lot of money when they sell it to someone else.  Then, our planned commercial district is already compromised and we will not have any control over what happens there.  

I think it is great that there are people behind the idea of progress for Ramona, but let’s support that progress as smart development that enhances our town.  Come and support the idea of the project, but support it only if it is reduced to an appropriate scale and is moved to an area in our town that helps us maintain our town center.

Let’s expand our commercial development into more of a square shape, promote businesses within walking distance of each other and be thoughtful of our existing business district. There are appropriate sites for this project that are already in the commercial area.  

Do we want “our town” as we know it now, to become a ghost town, while we create a new town center near Dye Road that mimics the scale of the Friars Road commercial center where IKEA, Lowe’s and COSTCO are located?  Is this the first thing we want people to see as they enter our town?

These developers are probably getting this land at a reduced rate because of its location. A lot of times these sites are “entitled” and then the developers sell them at a huge profit, instead of actually proceeding with the development themselves.  

The site these developers have selected is on the far west end of town. This is an area that is outside of our commercially planned zoning. It is not convenient to the people who live in our town center, Country Estates or the backcountry areas such as Julian, Santa Theresa, and Santa Isabel, etc.  

Since Poway has the type of businesses that could possibly move into this center, no one from Poway would drive to Ramona to shop here and the people who live on the West end of Ramona would probably go to Poway anyway.  And, the developers of this project are now giving it a new name, because it really does not have anything to do with Target.

Let’s all step back, take a breath and get educated and informed on what is really happening here, before we make irreversible decisions that could damage Ramona forever.

Carole  Wylie, an architect and Ramona resident, is chairman of the Ramona Design Review Board.

   
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