Ramonans attending the Revitalization Steering Committee meeting groaned with disappointment when they learned that Supervisor Dianne Jacob would not be at the semiannual session in the Ramona Community Center on Friday.
Twice a year, community volunteers meet with Jacob to share information on issues in Ramona that need funding or to have policy decisions made by the Board of Supervisors. The steering committee represents community interests in the areas of Economic Development, Health and Human Services, Infrastructure and Transportation, Public Safety and Law Enforcement, and Parks and Recreation, which includes the library.
Jacob, District 2 supervisor who is this year’s chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, was unable to be at the Ramona meeting because of a press conference. In her place, Jacob sent Jeff Collins, her chief of staff, “a nice man, but not the supervisor,” those at the meeting agreed.The meeting went on as planned, with the participants positive expectation that their community concerns would be relayed to the supervisor.
The majority of the audience was made up of representatives from the vineyard and winery industry anxious to receive news on the progress of the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the proposed 4-Tiered Winery Ordinance. Collins and the rest of his staff had no information on the subject. Bill Schweitzer, past president of the Ramona Valley Vineyard Association, gave a brief report on the 2009 wine grape harvest in the Ramona Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA). He reported that the harvest was the largest since the AVA was formed in 2006, a total of 73 tons.
Forty vineyards and wineries reported their harvest, with 15 of those reporting no production since they are too new.
“It takes about 73 tons of grapes to make 2,500 cases of wine,” said Schweitzer. “This harvest represents about half of a single boutique winery’s annual allowed production under the proposed ordinance. We are extremely small, and, despite naysayers, will not be a Napa Valley any time soon.”
The Parks and Recreation Subcommittee reported that groundbreaking for the new library is scheduled for Nov. 16 at 10 a.m., with a projected completion date of November 2010.
Ramona Intergenerational Community Campus (RICC) site acquisition and planning is not yet funded, the county reported. The proposed location on Main Street between 12th and 13th next to the new library is anticipated to include a senior center, community resource center, daycare for both adults and children, and a recreational center.
While the site has been cleared and cleaned, some of the road and traffic issues remain unresolved. RICC extends to the Santa Maria Creek boundaries, and in previous recommendations Jacob has asked for an action plan and timeline for the development of a Santa Maria Creek Greenway and to identify potential funding.
This dovetailed with a report on the greenway, which is intended to provide a linear park along Santa Maria Creek, connecting Ramona Community Park, also called Wellfield Park, on water district property with the San Dieguito River Park at Bandy Canyon. The goals of this project are to protect natural resources, create a neighborhood and community park, develop passive recreational opportunities such as trails and picnicking, and enhance water quality by removing trash and controlling sources of pollution.
Progress is being made in that one of the properties recently acquired, Oak Country II, is funded and being developed with a one-acre staging area and four miles of a nonmotorized, multi-use trail network.
Carol Fowler, chair of the Economic Development Subcommittee, said that the greenway is being incorporated into Ramona Village Design Committee planning, with features such as restaurants and wine tasting rooms to enhance tourism and therefore economic stability in the community. Jennifer Haines with the county parks department showed maps of the greenway and reported that county staff had walked the route. At the moment, it is not contiguous and funding is required to purchase some properties for the complete greenway, she said.
Fowler said there is an urgent need to address onerous costs being forced upon any business wanting to locate in Ramona. While the traffic impact fee (TIF) has come under fire as a business killer in the past, now the Ramona Municipal Water District is adopting fees that are crushing opportunities for businesses to fill the many commercial vacancies in town, she said.”
“The TIF and the water district fees for the Palomar Pomerado Healthcare (PPH) facility total more than the cost of the whole shell of the building,” said Arvie Degenfelder with the Health and Human Services Subcommittee.
These fees are a concern as they will affect lease rates, which could negatively impact provider interest in the new building, Degenfelder said. The entire project to serve the healthcare needs of the citizens of Ramona is in jeopardy because of these government fees, she said.
Realtor Jeff Gan is cautiously optimistic.
“There are a lot of lease and for sale commercial properties available, but there’s also a lot of activity,” he said. “The TIF and water district fees along with the Small Business Administration (SBA) loans being harder to get are factors.”
But, he added, “It’s not all bad. Lease rates are down, landlords are willing to deal, and a lot of energetic people with good ideas are looking to locate their businesses here.”
Other subcommittees reported progress on issues ranging from the Collier Park outdoor soccer arena to vernal pool mitigation efforts.
More volunteers are needed in a couple of areas: the ARRIBA program needs adults to provide programs, coach and tutor and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Public Safety and Law Enforcement Subcommittee needs a community member as chair to serve as an information conduit between the law enforcement agencies serving Ramona and the community. Interested persons may contact Jacob’s office at 619-531-5522.