By Robin Joy Maxson
At the July 7th Ramona Community Planning Group (RCPG) meeting, there was a very interesting discussion regarding the ongoing definition of where the line resides between private property rights and community rights. There were two agenda items that highlighted this struggle.
The first item was a solar energy project that would provide renewable, non-polluting energy. The question was whether the property owner could place the panels on his property — benefiting himself, the solar panel company, SDG&E and supposedly the local community. The panels would cover 45 to 50 acres of the property owner’s 110-acre farm. Think of the views from our local mountains into the “Valley of the Solar Panels.”
We are not a flat-land community with which you can hide panels with vegetation. The local community’s voice – through the RCPG – was properly concerned about the overall impact and aesthetics of such a project. It was mentioned that this was not the only project of this type that was searching for a home in our community. This would be the beginning of a landslide toward solar panel “farms” on our extremely limited agricultural lands.
The second item was the request to increase the number of residents in a heretofore small treatment facility for brain-injured patients from 16 patients to 52 patients. The owner of the property was seeking community approval for his growing business. The property was originally home to six patients housed in a residential home, a low impact given the neighborhood. Then the “home” moved to 16 patients — somewhat of a stretch for the neighborhood. Moving up to 52 patients over the next few years, with its exponentially increased business activity, clearly moves the neighborhood out of its intended rural residential/rural agricultural setting. This project will be going to the San Diego County Planning Commission on July 22 with a recommendation of “Approval” by county staff.
The old saying, “good fences make good neighbors,” has in these cases grown into, “good zoning makes good neighbors.” Good zoning allows residents to have a somewhat predictable idea of how their immediate surroundings will be viewed currently and in the coming years. Good zoning allows for residents to make thoughtful home purchase decisions as they rely on the probability that they will be living in an area that supports either residential use, agricultural use, commercial use or industrial use. “Reasonable” variations within these categories are considered through the Major Use Permit process and should be granted when contributing to the overall character of the area or neighborhood.
The Major Use Permit “program” steals the security from homeowners of a somewhat stable neighborhood environment when it is wielded as an instrument of force instead of an opportunity to promote neighborliness. Businesses/property owners that don’t respect the safety net of zoning are not being good neighbors. They are forcing unwanted and inappropriate activity into an area that was not designed for the proposed “new” use. To have your voice heard regarding these projects, please attend the July 22 Planning Commission meeting or contact the Planning Commission through Cheryl Jones at Cheryl.Jones@sdcounty.ca.gov.
Robin Joy Maxson is a Ramona resident.