Planners give nod to Montecito Ranch road changes

By Karen Brainard

The planners of Montecito Ranch, a 417-home development to be built on 935 acres northeast of Ramona Airport, have requested road modifications to the project.

Ramona Community Planning Group, which  approved the development in December 2009, granted some of the modifications at its Nov. 1 meeting.

Chris Brown of Alchemy Consulting Group, representing the developers, said discrepancies were found between the summary of the project and the Traffic Impact Study.

According to Brown, the summary states that  the project’s traffic on Montecito Way, Ash Street, and Montecito Road would directly impact those streets and thus require road widening.

The Traffic Impact Study, Brown said, states that those streets would not be directly impacted so no mitigation measures would be needed.

A number of other road improvements are required of the project, including on segments of Pine Street (State Route 78), 10th Street, and Main Street (State Route 67). Brown said the developer would still be adding turn lanes and re-striping at Montecito Road and Main Street.

Planning Group Vice President Chris Anderson asked whether the study was flawed.

Ken Brazell, project manager with the county’s Department of Public Works, said the study was not flawed, but the summary regarding those roads was incorrect.

“We’re all in agreement they don’t have significant impacts to the roads,” Brazell said.

Noting that the economy has tanked, Brazell said, “They’re trying to make this a viable project.”

Brown said that to widen Montecito Road and Montecito Way from 40 to 60 feet with right of way would entail condemning strips of properties where owners have mailboxes and gardens.

Brown said property owners told him they do not want that and would fight it.

RCPG member Carl Hickman, a licensed traffic engineer with the county, said he reviewed the traffic analysis and drove down all three roads before the meeting.

Citing the forecasted traffic for those roads once Montecito Ranch is completed, and increases by the year 2030, Hickman said the roads won’t be improved to accommodate the traffic if the developer is not required to do so.

Brazell said that due to down-zoning in the county’s general plan update, growth forecasts by 2030  have lessened.

The general plan update also reduced road requirements, traffic conditions, and traffic impact fees (TIF), developer Bruce Tabb said in a letter to the county.

“As a result, reimbursements and credits allocated to TIF facilities which were part of Montecito Ranch have now been eliminated, making construction of the roads as currently conditioned economically infeasible,” he stated in the letter.

All other road improvements will remain, said Brown.

“We’re not changing the project,” he stressed.

Hickman, who said his main concern was Montecito Way, made a motion to approve the request with the exception of Montecito Way.

For that road, the planning group will consult with the county on any modifications that would minimize the right-of-way impact.

The motion passed by 9 votes. Members Angus Tobiason and Kevin Wallace were opposed, and Richard Tomlinson and Paul Stykel recused themselves. Eb Hogervorst and Matt Deskovick were absent.

In the next year, the developers hope to finalize the project’s map, said Brown.

   
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