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Cumming Ranch Project Backed by County Planning Commission

Under proposal, 125 houses would be built on one- to two-acre lots at the south end of town.

The San Diego County Planning Commission voted in approval of the Cumming Ranch proposal to go before the County Board of Supervisors at a meeting in San Diego Aug. 17, but not without some resistance from Ramona residents and even a board member.

The highly-debated project, which has been in the works for the past 10 years, was taken before the board, yet again, by developer Gene Driscoll at the meeting.

Driscoll thanked the county staff, along with the Ramona Community Planning Group, for being “true professionals” during the approval process over the years.

The housing proposal, which plans to build 125 houses on one- to two-acre lots, sits at the south end of town, off Highland Valley Road and Highway 67. Driscoll's partnership, 805 Properties, bought the ranch in 1993.

The project has been met with disapproval from nearby residents, who say the proposed housing development will kill the character of rural Ramona.

“I would love to see this land stay open grasslands,” said a Ramona resident the meeting.

"I'm against clustered housing," said opponent Joe Minervini. "We want our surroundings to remain rural."

805 Properties argues that 487 acres was hand-picked to go to the grasslands preserve, with 2.4 miles of pathways and trails. Driscoll said he's saving the most valuable land in the grasslands and that all the streets will follow the natural design of the land.

"All vernal pools and major ridgelands will be reserved in open space," Driscoll said. "The design would fit nicely with the surrounding grasslands."

Other residents came and spoke their piece at the public meeting, including a spokesperson for Save Our Ramona and those neighboring the proposed project area.

Many common concerns involved increased traffic on the small roads, along with water and sewage concerns.

"The Department of Planning and Land Use admits water and sewage can't handle the load now," said Ramona resident Sharon Lynch, who's worried about higher water rates and rationing.

Regina Wilson said traffic was reason enough to nix the project.

"My concern is the traffic going down Highland Road to Rancho Bernardo," Wilson said. "[Cumming Ranch] would be adding more traffic to an already dangerous road."

Even board member Michael Beck voiced his distaste for the project, specifically for the habitat loss permit and the conservation easement. Though he likes the design of Cumming Ranch, he's "pretty uncomfortable" with other issues.

"I think the project design is well done... and a result of a lot of work," Beck said. "Open space should not have to be paid for the people."

But Ramona Community Planning Group board member Chris Anderson said Cumming Ranch is "good for Ramona."

"Cumming Ranch is well-planned and a good fit for Ramona," Anderson said at the meeting.

The project will pay for road improvements at the intersection of Highland Road and Highway 67, including widening of roads and added lefthand turn lanes.

The county Planning Commission approved the project 6-1. Cumming Ranch will now move on to the Board of Supervisors for consideration.

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