The Ramona Village Design Group will be holding a “big” joint meeting with other community organizations to receive input on the village design plans at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 17, in the large room of the community center.
“One reason for this meeting is to have greater input from a greater number of people,” said Village Design Chair Rob Lewallen, who billed the meeting as an “extension of the August workshop.”
The village design group and Consultant Howard Blackson of Placemakers, along with Blackson’s coding team, held a design workshop Aug. 6, 7 and 8 where individuals and community groups discussed ideas, focusing mainly on the “Paseo” area of town, from 10th to Pala streets. The workshop looked at how using form-based codes could help transform the downtown by creating character, giving Ramona an identity and making it more pedestrian-friendly.
While much was accomplished at the workshop, many members of the various committees and organizations could not attend due to vacations and other issues.
“We want to make sure we go the extra effort to go out to the community,” said Village Design Vice Chair Carol Fowler. “The biggest thing we hope to accomplish is unity.”
The village design group joint meeting will be conducted with the Ramona Community Planning Group and the Ramona Design Review Board, and will be open to representatives from the chamber of commerce, municipal water district, Ramona Tree Trust, Kiwanis and Rotary clubs, Vintners Association, Old Town Revitalization, other organizations and the public.
Blackson said he will give a presentation similar to the one he gave during the last night of the three-day workshop with slides and sketches, but he will add some extra slides on basic town planning principles and a slide or two relevant to the county general plan.
“We’re looking for input from all of Ramona and all Ramonans individually to be incorporated into this design,” Lewallen said. “The goal is to create these form-based codes with special Ramona-specific custom tailored zoning that reflects exactly what Ramona wants its town center commercial area to be, to look like and how we want it to function.”
This can only be achieved, Lewallen said, by striving for community consensus.
“Howard and his team are well adept at sorting through all of the different comments and desires of a community’s various organizations and individuals, and coming up with a design that works for everyone, or close to it,” said Lewallen.
Lewallen added that, if each organization has a part in the creation of this design, “there is overall ownership of the design by everyone. It becomes a ‘we’ thing and not a ‘them’ thing.”
Fowler said the village design group has tried to conduct itself in a transparent way to have representation from all groups in the community.
“One of our goals is to show Ramona we are not divided; we are together,” she said.
The form-based codes, Lewallen said, will allow for different zoning and uses within a space as small as a block. He is especially excited about Placemaker’s ideas for what a smaller scale “big box” store could look like in town.
At the final presentation of the design workshop, Blackson suggested that a big box store such as a Target or Kohl’s could be on a block of Main Street with windows and doors fronting the street to provide more of a town center quality.
Bob Hailey, a Kiwanis Club of Ramona and other local organizations, said a big box store would be a draw because people go “downhill” to do their shopping. Hailey said he is very interested in the design plans and that it is time for people to give input. One area he is concerned about is traffic flow through town. He noted that the traffic increases on the weekends.
“We have some great things in Ramona,” said Hailey, listing the wineries, horses, artists, musicians and antique stores.
Promoting the wineries was discussed at the three-day workshop, as well as developing a multi-purpose trail along the Santa Maria Creek, adding awnings or trees to the downtown area, and putting parking behind the buildings along Main Street.
Carole Wylie, chairperson of the Ramona Design Review Board, likes the idea of parking placed behind the buildings downtown. She was unable to attend the workshop so she is glad to have this opportunity to participate in the design and has some ideas. An architect, Wylie said she has been involved in a number of projects in town and has seen first-hand that changes must be made and more guidelines are needed.
“I especially feel protective of the Old Town district,” she said. “I feel the standards are not strict enough to maintain that area of town,” Wylie said, pointing out that the town of Julian has strict guidelines to maintain its identity.
Wylie said she thinks the plans are a great start.
“We need to control the look and design, and we need the county to back us up,” she said.
Once the design plans are finalized and approved, they will be incorporated into the county’s 2020 general plan update, said Lewallen.
Fowler said she is “thoroughly excited” about the design plans and feels Blackson and his team have done an excellent job in creating an identity for Ramona.
“We’re not Julian, we’re not Poway. We’re Ramona,” she said. “There are very specific things that are unique to us.”
Placemaker’s, she said, is “creating Ramona as a destination and beautifying the community is part of that.”
Fowler pointed out that Ramona is in the center of the county and the chamber of commerce is marketing Ramona as the “Heart of San Diego County.”
“A lot of ideas have been in the community for a long time” and they are finally being put together in one vision, Fowler said. “It’s all kind of falling into place right now.”