By Karen Brainard
County staff gave three presentations, all focusing on either land use or density, at the Ramona Community Planning Group’s meeting this month.
Presentations targeted a new voluntary program to promote the long-term preservation of agriculture in the county, an initiative to restrict development within forest conservation lands, and a proposal for a solar photovoltaic project adjacent to the now-closed Ramona landfill.
Proposed solar project
Donna Turbyfill, deputy director of the Department of Public Works, presented a proposal to lease 33.06 acres of Ramona landfill buffer property off Pamo Road to a solar company to generate power. The buffer property is owned by the county and must be maintained in perpetuity, said Turbyfill.
Turbyfill referred to planners’ concerns about the aesthetics and other issues with solar projects, and said, “We do definitely want to make sure you’re happy with what we’re going to do.”
Turbyfill said she would send letters to homeowners in the vicinity of the landfill and will return to the RCPG with more information. The majority of planners supported the proposal.
Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement (PACE)
Matt Schneider from the Department of Planning and Land Use (DPLU) said letters were mailed to property owners across the county who might be interested in and could qualify for the county’s new Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement program. Under the PACE program, willing agricultural property owners are compensated for placing a perpetual easement on their agricultural land that limits future uses and extinguishes future development potential.
The program is voluntary and those in the program retain ownership of their property, said Schneider.
“The PACE program is fairly prevalent throughout the country,” he said.
The county began accepting applications to the PACE program on Jan. 16 and will continue to do so until March 1. Applications will be evaluated by criteria such as development pressure on the property, density reduction realized through the general plan adoption, agricultural potential and cost of the easement relative to the program’s available funds.
Properties selected for acquisition will be appraised at fair market value. Schneider said typical easement values range from $4,000 to $6,000 per acre.
Currently the county has $2 million to fund the program, said Schneider.
“We anticipate we’ll have more applicants than funding available,” he said.
Farmers usually re-invest the money for farming, he said.
Overall, planners were receptive to the program. More information and applications are available online at www.sdcounty.ca.gov/dplu/advance/PACE.html, or by calling an information hotline: 858-694-2033.
Forest Conservation Initiative
Bob Citrano from DPLU said the Forest Conservation Initiative (FCI), enacted in 1993, expired in 2010 and was not included in the county’s general plan update. The initiative affected approximately 91,000 acres of privately owned land within the Cleveland National Forest by establishing a minimum 40-acre parcel size per dwelling unit. This limits owners from subdividing their property, Citrano explained.
Plans are underway to apply the FCI land use designation in a general plan amendment, and notices were sent to all owners of FCI lands, said Citrano.
He noted that the FCI lands in Ramona are mainly on the north edge near San Pasqual Valley and south of San Diego Country Estates. Guiding principals for the FCI include promoting environmental stewardship, preserving agriculture, minimizing public costs of infrastructure and services, and supporting a reasonable share of population growth.
The planning group voted to support the draft land use map of FCI lands and to request the county re-notice affected property owners due to an error in the original letter and offer the same appeal consideration that property owners have had in the general plan update process.