By Karen Brainard
Dozens of residents attended the Project Ramona workshop presentations last week to view plans created by professional consultants to revitalize Ramona’s town center and create character in the community.
Project Manager Howard Blackson of PlaceMakers said more meetings will be scheduled in the next month to produce a draft plan and “code” for the community by October.
Blackson led the PlaceMakers’ team of professionals who specialize in creating form-based codes for communities. Also working with Blackson are county staff and members of the Ramona Village Design Group.
Form-based codes, referred to as “designer” building codes by the county, will be tailored to the country character of Ramona and are intended to be integrated into the zoning ordinance.
A master plan will be developed. Blackson said it is “the coordinating plan (called a Regulating Plan) that gives the form-based code its assigned zoning sub-districts and design standards.”
The project study area covers Main Street from Etcheverry Street on the west end to Third Street on the east end. The study area extends north and south of Main Street by two to three blocks.
About three dozen Ramonans attended the Wednesday night presentation of the workshop’s progress with many asking questions and offering suggestions.
On Saturday, just over two dozen Ramonans viewed maps, images and plans for proposals to code for Ramona’s character. Blackson said the work was well-received.
Dialogue focused on traffic, building heights on Main Street, character on neighborhood streets, land use flexibility and design guidelines becoming design standards with zoning, he said.
While many positives were mentioned for Ramona including the colonnade with the eucalyptus trees lining Main Street, wine tasting rooms, Old Town, and the H.E.A.R.T. mural project, Blackson identified five problem areas for Ramona.
The county’s transportation impact fee (TIF) has been a problem for companies wanting to open a business or develop in Ramona. Blackson said the county is working on the fee so it is less of an issue for developments.
“The transportation impact fee is being dealt with and being lowered,” he said.
Vernal pool mitigation was the second problem he mentioned, saying they are looking into the possibility of creating a managed mitigation area for all affected properties.
The third issue is that Main Street is a state highway. Blackson said they want to present a Main Street master plan to Caltrans and work with the state agency to improve the flow and access to private developments. Slowing auto speeds through two or three blocks of downtown has also been proposed.
Infrastructure for storm sewers is another problem, he said. Four residents from the Kelly and Raymond Avenue area relayed their flooding issues to Blackson at the opening night presentation on Aug. 8.
The fifth problem is one that Blackson said he did not know how to solve, and that was sewer service. With the Santa Maria sewer service area on the west side of town near capacity, Blackson said, “this is up to your leadership. It’s a big issue for you.”
Now that the weeklong workshop has concluded, Blackson said the next step is to hold breakout meetings with the Ramona Design Review Board, the Village Design Group and county staff to refine the overall master plan and recommendations.
After that step, he said they will draft the regulating plan and form-based code for the project area. He plans to provide an update to the Ramona Community Planning Group at its Sept. 1 meeting.
Blackson also said a meeting will be held with Caltrans.
Drafts of the plan will be posted to www.projectramona.com as available, he said. Dates of public meetings in Ramona will also be posted.