By Karen Brainard
Economic development, the winery ordinance, vernal pools, road projects, recreational activities, and public safety programs were among the topics at the Ramona Community Revitalization Steering Committee meeting with San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob.
Those attending the meeting in the Ramona Community Center on April 29 consisted mainly of county staff, law enforcement and chairs for the following subcommittees: parks and recreation/library, economic development, health and human services, infrastructure and transportation, and public safety and law enforcement. Jacob conducts the revitalization meeting in Ramona twice a year.
Carol Fowler, chair of the economic development subcommittee, is also vice chair of the Ramona Village Design Group, which was recently awarded a Caltrans (California Department of Transportation) grant and received $15,000 from the county. The two contributions totaled $150,000 and will allow the group to hire a professional and complete the Phase 3 document for the town center, including design standards, said Fowler.
“I think once we get these design standards in place, then we might become more developer- friendly,” Fowler said.
She noted that some aspects of the design group’s Phase 1 document have changed. Fowler said the design group has basically abandoned the idea of landscaped medians in Old Town. Instead, she said, the group is looking into some type of beautification at the entrance and at the end of Old Town, along with traffic calming measures to create a more pedestrian-friendly environment.
Fowler brought up the proposed south bypass, saying it makes sense to take the state highway off Main Street. Parking would be much easier, and less traffic would be more conducive to outdoor dining, she said.
Jacob said she will support the village design group’s efforts to make downtown more pedestrian- friendly. Any changes with Main Street, however, have to go through Caltrans because the street is a state highway, and several at the meeting noted the difficulties of working with Caltrans.
“Caltrans is under the gun right now,” Jacob said, mentioning a recent report from State Sen. Joel Anderson’s office about wasted tax dollars in the department of transportation. (Related article, page 10)
“They’re going to be under a lot of pressure, which could work to our advantage,” said Jacob.
Fowler also talked about plans to make Ramona a destination for tourists, such as the H.E.A.R.T. mural project, which will feature outdoor murals depicting Ramona’s history on downtown buildings. Another idea, Fowler said, is to have painted wine barrels around the community or on connecting trails.
Tiered Winery Ordinance
Jacob commented on the recent court ruling supporting the county’s tiered winery ordinance after being challenged by Coast Law Group on behalf of the San Diego Citizenry Group. Jacob called the ruling a solid victory and said the judge indicated that the plaintiff’s only recourse is at the ballot box—to go after the decision-makers. The judge ordered the San Diego Citizenry Group to pay the county fees associated with the case which Jacob said rarely happens. The citizenry group has 60 days to appeal the judge’s decision, she noted.
The next step, Jacob said, is with equestrian facilities and crafting an ordinance similar to the tiered approach with the wineries. Such an ordinance could allow certain equestrian uses by right, without requiring a major use permit as it stands now.
“You’ve got a huge horse industry...throughout the region, but particularly in Ramona,” she said. “So we want to promote that and make it easier for people to do things with their property.”
Development Costs, Vernal Pools
Because of little retail in Ramona, Fowler said that every week residents go down the hill to spend tax dollars in Poway, Escondido or El Cajon, adding more traffic to the highways.
With land acquisition costs, TIF (Transportation Impact Fees), sewer impact fees and mitigation fees, it becomes financially impossible for a developer to buy a lot along Main Street, she said. With all the fees combined, if the square-foot amount doesn’t average $10 to $12 per foot, the developer finds it financially unfeasible, she said.
Jacob said the county’s general plan update is addressing TIF fees, but sees the vernal pool issue as the biggest problem. The supervisor said she finds it frustrating because the county has to follow state and federal laws that impact a person from trying to do anything with their property. Since the late 1970s, a lot of constraints, such as habitat preservation, have been placed on properties, said Jacob.
Committee members discussed property owned by the Ramona school district behind the high school in which 13 of the 40 acres have vernal pools, preventing development. Jacob said there are questions as to how the wildlife agencies will allow for mitigation of those vernal pools. She suggested holding a meeting with wildlife agencies, Fowler, school district representatives and county staff.
13th street improvements
Dawn Perfect, chair of the infrastructure and transportation subcommittee, outlined a list of road projects and traffic concerns that are being reviewed or need funding, but focused on the need for improvements to 13th Street now that the library is at the corner of 13th and Main. As 13th runs north, the pavement ends and it becomes a dirt road that dips in the Santa Maria creek bed before reaching pavement again and connecting with Maple street. The road needs to be paved and needs a bridge over the creek bed, Perfect said.
Jacob noted that the Ramona Community Planning Group has a list of road projects prioritized and 13th Street is number 4 on the list. Ed Mananzan from the Department of Public Works said the preliminary engineering study for 13th Street has been completed and the department is pursuing funding for bridge construction through Caltrans.
Perfect also said access to Main Street when leaving the library is not working well because there is a right turn only, as there is on 14th street, forcing drivers to make u-turns or turn around in parking lots to drive east on Main street.
Parks and Recreation
Perfect, filling in for subcommittee chair Richard Tomlinson, announced that the soccer arena in Collier Park is scheduled to be completed this summer.
John Degenfelder with the Ramona Trails Association said June 3 will be the opening day for the new staging area on Highland Valley road and the Oak Country II trails.
Degenfelder and his wife Arvie also talked about plans to restore a former rodeo arena on what was known as the Davis-Eagle Ranch. Volunteers are working to restore the 300 x 100 foot arena for recreational and livestock activities.
Degenfelder estimated the arena to be over 50 years old and said the judges’ booth is still visible. It will not replace Ramona’s current rodeo grounds.
Also discussed were future plans for the Santa Maria Greenway, a proposed linear park along the Santa Maria Creek in Ramona, and the Ramona Intergenerational Community Campus (RICC) to be located by the library.
Public safety forum
Sheriff’s Lt. Julie Sutton said she will be moderating a forum with Jacob on May 16 on fire safety, community awareness and evacuation. Presentations will be given on the Emergency Management System, and the reverse 911 call system, including improvements implemented since 2007. Calfire will talk about fire preparedness for individuals and the community, and animal services will review evacuation of animals.
Sutton is inviting residents to submit questions in advance so officials can be better prepared with answers. Questions regarding evacuation and fire preparedness can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The forum will be held at 2 p.m. May 16 in Ramona Library, 1275 Main St.
Jacob said the county has money to spruce up and to expand the sheriff’s station into the previous site of Ramona’s library in the county complex off Montecito and Main. She described it as a temporary fix and said eventually a new station will be built on the lot.
Health & Human Services
LaVonna Connelly and Nancy Roy are now co-chairing the health and human services subcommittee, formerly chaired by Arvie Degenfelder.
Roy, who works with community outreach for Palomar Pomerado Health, said the health organization hopes to have its medical clinic on 13th Street up and running in a year. Roy also talked about programs to combat prescription drug abuse and to promote responsible driving among teens. The ARRIBA teen center on Montecito Road is always looking for funding and volunteers, Roy said. The center offers a safe location with activities for teenagers and is working with the local music store to bring in bands to perform.
“We’ve been doing this on a shoestring, basically,” Roy said.
Addressing transportation concerns, Connelly, coordinator of Ramona Transportation Action Committee (RTAC), talked about proposed changes and costs in the North County Transit District’s service for Ramonans. Connelly said she is involved in a research project with California State University San Marcos that is collecting transportation data for Ramona.