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Ramona Brain Injury Facility Expansion Approved; Foes Looking at 'Options'

Disappointed neighbors will look at other ways to stop the addition of buildings and clients. Owner is 'happy' but awaits another possible hurdle.

The owner of several Ramona residential care facilities for brain injury victims said Wednesday he's happy the Board of Supervisors has approved an expansion at one of his properties. However, he said he doesn't know when the work might start because of the potential for a lawsuit.

"The neighbors have threatened that in the past," Kevin O'Connor, owner of Hidden Valley Ranch Rehabilitation Services, Inc. told Patch on Wednesday. 

O'Connor operates four facilities in Ramona for people such as military or accident victims who have sustained brain injuries. Three of the units are former single family homes and the fourth is Stone Mountain, a 13,000-square-foot complex on 25 acres on Highland Valley Road. The planned addition of three residences and a gym to Stone Mountain has drawn ire from some neighbors. The proposal would bring the development to 36,000 square feet and increase the allowed number of clients from 15 to 52. The work is intended to be done in at least two phases over 10 years.

"That's over 4.5 times the lot coverage of surrounding properties," Supervisor Dianne Jacob told the Board at its March 28 meeting. Jacob represents Ramona. "That's the size of 2.5 Walgreen's stores," she said.

Neighbors are concerned about the behavior of some residents when they leave the property. Clients are not restricted from leaving the premises. Highland Valley Road residents have also raised land use density, sewer and traffic concerns.

Ramona Community Planning Group voted against the expansion but the County Planning Commission approved it. The planning group and two neighborhood groups appealed O'Connor's plans but were over-ruled by the Board of Supervisors last Wednesday.

"There was a process and we exhausted the process," Jim Piva, planning group chairman, told Patch outside the Board chambers. However, he said residents have other options.

Supervisors voted 3-2 to approve the expansion. Supervisor Dianne Jacob presented a motion to deny the proposal and was supported by Supervisor Pam Slater-Price. Ron Roberts, Bill Horn and Greg Cox voted for the proposed development.

"Everything I've heard is that this facility has been very successful," Cox said.

Jacob referred to a letter from a fomer Department of Planning and Land Use (DPLU) staffer in 2010 listing several reasons why the proposed expansion should not be supported because it was "not a suitable site."

"What has changed?" Jacob asked.

DPLU staff at the recent Board meeting said the staffer did not represent the Department's formal opinion, which was to approve the project.

"This is a very emotional issue," Jacob said. "These folks (O'Connor's clients) deserve a place to live in the right place. Mr. O’Connor does a good job from what I can tell. However, we do have some findings that we have to look at legally. The project is located in a low density, rural area. Such an increase of use is out of community character, as neighbors have testified."

Highland Valley Road neighbors Jim and Sandee Salvatore who led the fight against the expansion were at the meeting. Sandee presented her opinions to the Board, as did fellow neighbor Ruth Barnett and an attorney for the neighbors.

After the vote, Sandee Salvatore told Patch, "Our neighborhood as a whole—34 property owners—could not be more disappointed listening to the three Supervisors that did not uphold the appeal. I think Supervisor Jacob brought some very valid legal and technical issues to the table which we might just have to explore."

Jim Salvatore added, "I agree with Supervisor Jacob. What has changed? This was a set up," he said. "The Board doesn’t do it’s homework, like Jacob did. Someone influential must live within the neighborhood."

Another neighbor, Tina Reeves, said, "I'm disappointed. We were there long before O’Connor. He doesn’t even live in Ramona."

"My grandchildren visit," she said, expressing concern for their safety and the density of the project. "I have 37 acres and I have just one house on it."

O'Connor told Patch Wednesday, "I'm very happy and I think Bill Horn made some sensible comments."

Horn said a variety of facilities in his district, such as Casa de Amparo—a remediation center for child abuse—faced initial opposition but after a while people got used to them.

O'Connor said the planned development at Stone Mountain won't begin any time soon.

"It could be at least a year and a half away," he told Patch. "I've been working on this for nearly nine years already."

He knows that a potential lawsuit by the neighbors could delay or stop the plans.

"They've mentioned they could do that," he said.

To see a tour of the four facilities owned by Hidden Valley Ranch Rehabilitation in Ramona, click here.

What are your thoughts on this project? Tell us in the comments.

greg Chick April 05, 2012 at 02:41 PM
I am sorry but I have had a brain injury and I feel in support of the project. Yes if I lived next door I would feel the same. If it is noise is the problem I would say at least the people next door are not unfortunate enough to have injuries themselves causing such pain. This head noise I have no one else hears but it is 50 decibels 24/7/365 and mixed frequencies along with clicking. My right ear is deaf too boot. This all makes me value life on a different level. I instead of allowing it to make me intolerant, I have become very tolerant. I danced with a brain injured person last Sat. It was a pleasure. Lets embrace and tolerate "there but for the grace of God go you". Greg Chick,
Sandee Salvatore April 05, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Mr. Chick, unless you have walked in our neighborhoods shoes, you do not have a clue. We have history with this faciltiy and NONE of it is pleasant. We were not asking to remove one client from that facilty. We were simply asking for NO MORE PLEASE at this location. Did you hear? It requires a PACKAGE SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT TO EXPAND AND OPERATE. Perhaps you would like to buy one of the neighbors homes that abutt the property now that we have to disclose what is coming? Please embrace and tolerate? We have been tolerating and grown very tired long ago. I'm sorry for the noise in your head, However can you really justify an entire neighborhood paying for your injury. Especially since many of the clients became clients a after being weekend warriors on their motorcycles and believing they were invincible? We are and have been a very compassionate neighborhood and for that we have been dealt a very nasty THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!! Sandee Salvatore
Joe Minervini April 05, 2012 at 04:47 PM
I feel for Greg....this project should've been put either in a commercial/industrial area or in a remote location with no neighbors. The only way we Ramonans will be able to determine our own future is when we incorporate as a city. The problem with incorporating is it is expensive to accomplish and expensive to maintain the infrastructure. I also would worry about voter apathy and the voters not knowing who they would be voting for on the city council. The local voting I've witnessed in Ramona reveals the ones with name recognition get voted in.....its a popularity contest. Joe Minervini Joe Minervini
greg Chick April 05, 2012 at 07:04 PM
What is so horrible about a packaged Sewer Treatment Plant ? Back before 1990 all of Sedona Az each and every house was on a Packaged Treatment Plant. Some day many people will have them as to use the waste water. Why does that need capitalizing? Are they Evil? Sorry for your troubles possibly I do not know of tangible issues. I have not heard one. I am not going to judge the "Weekend Warrior" issue (not germane). Yes we need to Incorporate! Urban folk would say , "why don't you go to the country" Please post specific issues so others including myself can understand. I detailed my empathy.
C.C. Langley April 06, 2012 at 05:14 PM
The only thing horrible about this project is the way the Ramona Planning Group goes about there business. At a planning group meeting the board said that they have to listen to the people of Ramona so they have to vote against this project (there was probaly 8-10 nieghbors there opposing), right after that a proposal was brought up to have a wine tasting room right on Hwy 67, the most dangerouse road in SD county, 50 nieghbors signed a petition against the project, everybody on the board voted for it. So much for listening to the people of Ramona, Then the Planning group said that Highland Valley road was not meant to handle this kind of trafficfor this facility, but they voted not to long ago to let a winery down the road have weddings and receptions up to 150-200 people, and thats for people who have been drinking! I have friends that live on a single lane dirt road that has a winery, they get sometimes 50-60 cars on a weekend, that road was not made for that kind of traffic but did the Planning group consider that when they voted for it? Don't get me wrong I'm all for winerys in Ramona but I'm for fairness also, we can't have one set of rules for one group and another set for someone who doesn't live in Ramona (as one nieghbor said). Someone said that Good Ole boy politics was what happened at the Board of Supervisors, well Ramona has its own Good Ole boy politics, its just not a good feeling when you taste what you've been serving.
C.C. Langley April 06, 2012 at 09:56 PM
My neighbor called me to correct my figure of people who signed the petition against the wine tasting room, it was not 50, it was 86. I apologize for my inaccurate number.
Julie Pendray April 07, 2012 at 04:17 AM
This Patch story link from 2011 is from a meeting of the Planning Group, in which both sides weighed in. It may answer some questions expressed here in the comments. http://ramona.patch.com/articles/planning-group-rejects-expansion-of-facility-for-brain-injured-people
Happy April 10, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Mr. Chick, We do not dispute the need for such a facility. We object to the location of a high density commercial establishment in a zoned Agricultural, low density area. We also object to the blatant disregard of Ms. Jacob's well researched and undisputed position by others on the Board without so much as an attempt to justify. Other sites for this facility were not even proposed. There is nothing unique about this location to justify running roughshod over zoning and sewage treatment laws, and we are seriously considering letting reason prevail in the Courts, since it doesn't appear to be present for three members of the Board! Nancy Goodman MD
greg Chick April 10, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Nancy. I am understanding better now, I agree with you the way SD County works is bad at best. I am no fan of the County"s respect for Ramona. I was looking for a tangible issue as to why this was bad land use other than "Yuck, a bunch of retards next door" NIMBY sort of thing. I feel Ramona would make a great place for even more "Homes" for many types of people with many different needs. Job and infrastructure revenue for one. Poway is the "City in the country" I like "Ramona the home in the country" I also supported the Salvation Army Project next door to me. I am just a push over for Humanitarian Development Projects. I for example think Ramona needs a Skate Park and would agree to it next door...or up the street at Dos Picos Park where Hot Rods used to have car shows and daily things happen .
Happy April 11, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Since clients cannot be kept within the confines of the property or told how to behave, neighbors have to witness behavior for which WE would be arrested for indecent exposure or noise violation. The existing few are fine, as we all have empathy, but in the proposed density, intolerable. Re: pkg, waste treatment, we're not talking a family; it will serve hundreds of people daily, many of whom excrete toxic metabolites of psychoactive drugs, with NO external oversight. At capacity, with no increase in average monthly fees, O'Connor will gross about 5.5 million per year, and he can't afford a hook deductible business expense to hook up to sewer one mile away?!? Ms. Jacob cited two laws that should have prevented this massive expansion, summarily ignored by the DPLU and three members of the Board, and it was not even their district!
greg Chick April 11, 2012 at 11:42 PM
How about requesting resolution to objections. Each item quantified and weighed and objections clearly presented so to offer up remedy. I never like it when a committee says "you cant do that" Better to say do this instead and this is why. I would think bringing reason to the table demands recognition and fair play. Greg Chick, a peace maker and idealist . Who might think like a brain injured person.....
Tony Calluchi April 24, 2012 at 04:20 AM
Man you people got to much time on your hands!!! People need place like this to survive. God forbid any of you or your loved ones ever need this kind of care!
Happy April 24, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Absolutely, but a commercial establishment belongs in a commercially zoned area. The small, "family style" facility is fine - this is NOT what they are planning. There used to be a reason that we had zoning laws. . .
C.C. Langley April 24, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Ramona tried to use that same reasoning with wine tasting rooms, lets keep them in town where it is zoned commercial, not on country roads. Now Ag land is being turned commercial because they can have weddings, receptions, parties and yes there was a reason we had zoning laws but dianne Jacobs pushed for this wine tasting rooms so she ought to have thought this through because now people like the neighbors (sandy & nancy) can feel what so many ramonans have had to deal with. Fair is fair, the Board of Supervisors heard the appeal, denied it, so let Hidden Valley Ranch have their day, because the wine tasting rooms are sure having theirs.

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