Supervisors approve 125-home Cumming Ranch project

Gene Driscoll with 805 Properties reviews Cumming Ranch residential development plans to the Ramona Real Estate Association in February 2012. Sentinel file photo
Gene Driscoll with 805 Properties reviews Cumming Ranch residential development plans to the Ramona Real Estate Association in February 2012. Sentinel file photo

By Joe Naiman

San Diego County Board of Supervisors have approved the rezone and specific plan for Cumming Ranch subdivision.

The project creates 125 residential lots and 457 acres of biological open space on 683 acres, approximately one-quarter of a mile northwest of the Route 67 and Highland Valley Road intersection. The lots range from one acre to 3.1 acres.

“I think it’s a pretty well laid-out project,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob, whose District 2 includes Ramona. “I do not see any reason to deny this project.”

Jacob acknowledged issues that opponents raised about the impact of the project on State Route 67.

“I’m very concerned about the traffic impacts,” she said at the Jan. 30 hearing.

The approval included a statement of overriding considerations regarding cumulative impacts to Route 67, which cannot be mitigated solely by the project. Deputy County Counsel Claudia Anzures noted that a moratorium on development can only be imposed for public health and safety purposes and in conjunction with the jurisdiction’s plan to remedy that situation.

Anzures said that all traffic, sewer and endangered species issues cited by opponents were addressed in the Environmental Impact Report.

“There are no legal reasons for denial of this project,” she said.

Project conditions include a Local Agency Formation Commission annexation, which would provide Ramona Municipal Water District latent sewer powers to the area, and no homes could be built until the water district expands capacity of the Santa Maria Wastewater Reclamation Plant.

Ramona Community Planning Group supported most of the project, voting 8-3 in December 2010 to recommend approval, but also voting 12-0 for the county to work with the community and California Department of Transportation to address Route 67 issues.

“This project complies with the general plan, the community plan, and also with the general plan update,” said Jim Piva, planning group chair.

“It’s a thing that is going to be good for Ramona,” said Angus Tobiason, who has lived in Ramona for 75 years and served 24 of those years on the planning group.

On Aug. 17, 2012, the county’s Planning Commission voted 5-1 to recommend project approval.

The entity known as 805 Properties will pay a Transportation Impact Fee of $449,000.

Intersection improvements to Route 67 and Highland Valley Road/Dye Road would be funded by 805 Properties, as would a traffic signal at Highway 67 and Archie Moore Road when warrants are met. The unmitigable impacts to Route 67 are between Scripps Poway Parkway and Archie Moore Road.

Approximately 78 percent of the lots within a quarter-mile of the site are three acres or less.

“The project is a good project for Ramona. The proponent has worked with the community over the past decade,” said Chris Anderson, who spent 12 years on the Ramona planning group. “There is no ridgeline development, no mass grading.”

The development will use level building pads fitting the contour of each lot rather than elevated pads. The individually-designed lots are expected to reduce grading by 65 percent.

Use of water-efficient plumbing and vegetation is expected to reduce irrigation water by 50 percent, while a minimum of 10 percent of the project’s energy use will be generated on-site.

“My goal is to make this the most energy/water conserving project out there,” said 805 Properties managing partner Gene Driscoll.

Solar energy panels will power the water heaters.  Driscoll supported a Board of Supervisors recommendation to wire the homes for future electric car use and for full solar energy, although individual lot owners will decide whether full solar energy is feasible for their home.

The houses will be custom-built. Ramona Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Chair Carol Fowler noted that local builders with custom home experience will likely be used.

“We need it up here,” she said.

Fowler added that the economic benefit would not be at the expense of community character.

“A lot of the ideas that went into this project came from the community,” said Driscoll.

That included work with trails advocates. Although one proposed trail and staging area had to be eliminated when the Federal Aviation Administration opposed the public use of off-site airport property, the project will add 2.42 miles of non-motorized connection trails, as well as 3-1/2 miles of internal pathways.

“Mr. Driscoll’s been very cooperative with all the efforts we’ve put into trails,” said John Degenfelder of the Ramona Trails Association.

Opponents noted accidents on Route 67 and the difficulty of evacuation during the October 2007 Witch Fire.

“Highway 67 in Ramona is an extremely dangerous road,” said Darren Kirkpatrick, who lives in the 17800 block of Route 67.

“I’m particularly disturbed about the traffic,” said Carol Angus of Highland Hills Drive.

“Ramona historically experiences wildfires,” said Sky Valley Drive resident Regina Wilson.

“You can’t get out on these roads in an evacuation,” said Diane Conklin, representing the Mussey Grade Road Alliance. “You can’t expect people in Ramona to take the risk.”

Vivian Osborn of Voorhes Lane took issue with community character.

“805 Properties has designed a planned urban development,” she said. “This is so not rural. This is urban, and it is totally incompatible with our lifestyle. It will change our quality of life forever.”

Osborn also expressed concern about sewer.

“Sewer service is not trivial,” she said.

Rich Grunow, chief of the Project Planning Division for the county’s Department of Planning and Development Services, noted that plans for the project were accepted by Ramona’s fire department and by the county’s fire personnel.

“The post-project condition is going to be better than the condition that’s out there today,” Grunow said.

Jacob noted that the county regularly relies on local fire districts, water agencies, and school districts to assess whether they can serve a project.

“I’m not going to second-guess that,” she said.

“I think this is a great proposal,” said Supervisor Dave Roberts.

“This really is one of the best plans that we’ve seen,” Supervisor Ron Roberts said.

The open space areas will be added to the Ramona Grasslands Preserve.

“I think it’s a good project for the Grasslands, I think it’s a good project for us, and I will make sure that we do everything to continue to work with the community,” Driscoll said.

   
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