County planner reviews proposed changes

   With the county’s General Plan Update scheduled to be presented to the board of supervisors later this year, members of the county’s Department of Planning and Land Use (DPLU) have been reviewing zoning changes, minimum lot sizes, density and other issues for Ramona.

   Devon Muto, chief of advanced planning for DPLU and project manager for the General Plan Update, and Eric Lardy of the DPLU met with the Ramona Community Planning Group’s General Plan Update Subcommittee last Thursday to receive feedback.

   Because a few suggested zoning changes were still undecided and needed further review, the subcommittee will be meeting again at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 18. The subcommittee will then present its recommendations to the Ramona Community Planning Group.

   “We’re in the home stretch on the general plan update,” Muto told the subcommittee members.

   Muto said his department is trying to resolve all the issues before the April planning commission hearing, which is when they hope to obtain final recommendations on all the maps and plans. After that, he explained, they will package all the work and are scheduled to present it to the board of supervisors this fall.

   For Ramona, he said, there were three areas he wanted to review: the land use map, the initial work on zoning and the community plan.

   One of the areas discussed was the potential site for a “big box” store as identified by the Ramona Village Design Group. A portion of that site, bordered by Ramona, La Brea, Day and Vermont Streets, is zoned village residential (VR 20) and could be changed to general commercial, Muto said. They would then need to offset that zoning change by designating another area residential.

   “This would match the plan that Howard Blackson and the village design committee has planned,” said Muto. “They show trying to keep as much of the commercial as possible closer to Main Street and then transitioning to residential once you get off those first few blocks of Main Street.”

   The subcommittee considered an area around 11th Street and A and B streets that could be changed from rural commercial to commercial residential zoning. That would still allow some flexibility, Muto said.

   In previous plans, Muto said, the Ramona Intergenerational Community Center (RICC) was designated commercial and should now have a public facility designation.

   While discussing the general plan, subcommittee members Angus Tobiason and Katherine Finley commented on how the rural character of Ramona is being changed by increasing density and crowding so much downtown.

   Finley said the county has been steering the community toward the larger parcels and protecting open space and “cramming the future growth into the town center.”

Finley added that she, Tobiason and a lot of other residents object to such practices.

Minimum lot sizes and the infrastructure to support future building, such as water and sewer, were also discussed.     

   While talking about zoning, subcommittee chair Chris Anderson said she had a concern regarding animal designators, which she described as being key to the rural character of Ramona. As an example, she referred to the chicken ranches and dairy farms along Dye road and said she does not want to see such agricultural businesses pushed out due to the odors.

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