By Karen Brainard
Jim Hagey jumped two hurdles May 1 in his quest to develop a town square on his Elliott Pond property between Ramona and 16th streets behind the Stater Bros. shopping center.
“The idea is to create a very fun town square,” said Hagey, adding that the proposed retail, cafés and activities by the pond will bring people together and give youth a place to socialize.
To make that viable, however, he said he has to sell 14 of his 20 acres — the portion that borders H Street on the south end of his property — to a retail developer with the possibility of a big box or medium box store being built.
His property has three different residential zoning classifications: RU24, RS7 and RS4, with each number denoting how many residential units can be built per acre. Hagey said the county has told him anywhere from 138 to approximately 170 units could be built on the land.
Without a zoning change, Hagey, who has owned the property for 14 years, said he will have to sell it to a
developer and it will end up with inexpensive entry-level homes.
Hagey received just enough votes from the Ramona Community Planning Group to have his property included in the proposed village core zoning plan that will give him flexibility for retail. That vote came after eight group members agreed to reconsider his request, which had failed at the April meeting, 7-4, with four members absent.
Hagey’s next hurdle will be with the county Planning Commission on May 16, when commissioners are scheduled to consider whether proposed zoning ordinance amendments should incorporate the Ramona plan of form-based codes, also known as custom-tailored zoning. The plan covers the town center from Etcheverry to Third streets and extending about two blocks on both sides of Main Street. Hagey’s property is not in the final draft.
To have the planning group reconsider Hagey’s request, “pertinent new information” had to be presented, as stipulated by the county’s Policy I-1. Ramona Village Design Group co-chair Carol Fowler, who worked on the form-based codes, said she had new information.
After Fowler’s presentation, planner Donna Myers questioned whether any of the information was new and previously unavailable, which would allow them to reconsider the vote.
“That’s my concern,” Myers said.
Fowler gave each planner a packet with a map of vacant parcels and a survey of businesses on Main Street and upcoming residential developments. She said there are not many areas for larger retail development, especially with many vacant properties having environmental restrictions.
Fowler said there is an 11.9-acre site across from Stater Bros. on Main Street but she learned that 2.5 acres at the northeast corner of Main and 16th streets is going to be developed for retail by its owner. There are vernal pools on other acreage near that corner, she said.
Explaining why Hagey’s property is a desirable location for retail, Fowler said, “We don’t want to elongate the commercial core, we want to widen it.”
Of the estimated 251 businesses on Main Street, 66 are retail establishments, said Fowler. Other businesses include automotive, hair salons, liquor stores, restaurants, and professional services.
“We don’t have a lot of retail,” she said, noting that residents go to Poway to shop.
Hagey received some support from public speakers.
Chris Meador said he was born and raised in Ramona but after college he moved, as did his other college-educated friends. ‘
“It’s the lack of a fundamental social connection,” he said. “We must have places to foster social connections
among people of all ages.”
Kathy DaSilva said she loves the idea of a town square but is concerned about a big box, like a Target, and would urge for a store like Trader Joe’s.
Hagey said he would prefer a medium box store, such as Trader Joe’s. However, if his property is included in the form-based codes, a big box store would have to be built according to the codes’ rural-looking design standards so it would blend in with the town.
Myers asked about retail encroachment in a residential area, but Hagey said he has met with neighbors.
“They don’t want 170 low-income houses. They want this,” he said.
Planner Torry Brean said Ramona needs less traffic and more jobs and that could be accomplished with Hagey’s plan.
Brean noted that the planning group’s approval would only give flexibility for retail or residential at the site and any development would still need to come back to the planning group.
“It still gives us control at a later date to make sure it’s done properly,” he said.
Hagey received the needed 8 votes for the reconsideration and the request. Two members voted no — Donna Myers and Kevin Wallace — and five were absent: Barbara Jensen, Matt Deskovick, Jim Cooper, Richard Tomlinson and Chad Anderson.