By Karen Brainard
Developing Ramona economically and creating more community amenities captured a majority of the discussion at the Ramona Community Revitalization Steering Committee meeting Nov. 20 in the library’s community room.
Reports by subcommittee chairs included efforts to bring more visitors to Ramona and create more business opportunities, and updates on the Ramona Intergenerational Community Campus (RICC) and recreation projects.
Carol Fowler, chair of the Economic Development Subcommittee, talked about the work her group is doing to make Ramona a destination, including monitoring their website, www.experienceramona.com, and placing ads in publications around the county.
Ramona, however, lacks lodging, Fowler said. She suggested the county implement a farm stay ordinance that would allow farms with a minimum of four acres to provide lodging. The county has an agricultural homestay provision in its zoning ordinance that allows lodging on working farms of 10 acres or more.
“Most of the farms in Ramona are less than 10 acres. Most of the farms in San Diego County are less than 10 acres,” she said.
According to Fowler, wineries are considered farms.
Joe Farace, a zoning planning manager with San Diego County Planning and Development Services, said staff is working on such a farm stay as part of their zoning ordinance cleanup. Once the ordinance is drafted, it will go before the Ramona Community Planning Group, he said, and is expected to go before the county supervisors early next year.
Fowler also said the county will be considering modifications to its Tiered Winery Ordinance that allows boutique wineries by right to open tasting rooms on land zoned A70 or A72 agricultural.
According to Farace, a meeting will be scheduled “down the hill” and the county will invite a variety of stakeholders who have different levels of interests in the winery ordinance.
“Now that the litigation is past us, we have an opportunity to learn from what’s worked, what hasn’t worked, from the ordinance and try to address that,” he said. The two-year legal challenge to the winery ordinance concluded in October in the county’s favor.
On community matters, Jack Rogers, co-chair of the RICC committee, said the YMCA is interested in building a gym on the campus that is slated for Main Street between 12th and 13th streets. Ramona Library is considered the flagship building for the intergenerational campus.
Rogers said YMCA’s first step is to do a feasibility study to assess the community’s support for a gym and family programs. Such a study will cost about $28,000, and YMCA is willing to pay $14,000, he said, adding that perhaps Jacob’s office or the county could pay the remainder.
Jacob said YMCA branches generally pay for their own assessments and she did not think Neighborhood Reinvestment Funds could be used for the study, especially with many parks and recreation-type projects for Ramona seeking funding.
“It’s a matter of competing interests,” she said.
Rogers also noted his committee was pleased with the county’s recent agreement with Caltrans to acquire its property at 12th and Main streets for the RICC.
“It’s not a done deal and it’s not a quick deal, but it’s under way,” said Tom Fincher with county General Services.
To acquire the Caltrans property, the county must find replacement sites for Caltrans in Ramona and in Julian.
“This is a big step,” said Jacob. “At least there’s an agreement to do this.”
According to Rogers, he, co-chair Arvie Degenfelder, and Dawn Perfect have invested 16 years into the planning of the RICC.