"After five months or so," Thometz continues, "[the Star Ranch proposal] comes to the planning group. There are nine members of the planning group; it takes five, a majority, to report out a recommendation to the county. But two of the members on the planning group had to recuse themselves [because their plots border Star Ranch]. They ended up with four votes in favor and the three votes against."
After the Star Ranch plan failed in the planning group, a Cameron Corners committee was formed by the group to continue the discussion on the idea. "This committee," Thometz says, "is supposed to be planning the future there. The rural lands initiative [Proposition A] would have killed these people dead. Because the only thing that was excluded, out in our area, were things like country towns. And Cameron Corners was 27 acres of commercial area in a country town. But everything around it is land-use Designation 18, which is multiple rural use, and that was the main target of Proposition A. But, unfortunately, Prop A didn't pass. So now we have our committee meetings, and it has become a very serious point of contention in the community. I mean, the committee is now at 45 members."
Both Thometz and Paul sit on the committee. "Out of the 45 members," Thometz says, "there are about five or six that are big-time growth, and there are about seven or eight that are some growth, and there are about 25 which are no growth."
A second committee under the aegis of the planning group is developing a community character statement which, should it be approved by the planning group and filed with the county, would be the official word on how the local community envisions its future. Both Thometz and Paul sit on that committee as well. "I don't think there has been a whole lot of vision," Paul says of both committees, "as to what the community character could be. The folks who are currently serving on committee are more interested in describing what they think the community character is today."
When asked what he would like to see done on the Star Ranch, Thometz fires back, "Nothing. I'm serious. Look, there is a certain visual landscape that is what you see in this community. That shouldn't change. Now, there are some things I am not against them building. For example, they could build some homes that are as far away from 94 as possible, right at the bottom of the hills in there, away from the road. They could put some houses over on the other side of the hill, where nobody would see them, west of 94. So they could do that, but I want to leave all the landscape open. I don't want to see any houses."
"I don't think," Paul responds, "that Star Ranch has any intent to upset or dislodge or break away from the traditional Campo qualities -- quiet, dark skies and all those things. But the community needs to recognize that the backcountry has an obligation to provide a certain amount of the resident population housing that is in a crisis throughout the entire county. There is an ability [on Star Ranch] to produce housing of reasonable cost and housing of appropriate economic means for the community. That is what we are trying to do."
But, at least for a few years, nothing is what Thometz and others who would see Campo unchanged are going to get on the Star Ranch. "It would take a couple of years," Paul explains, "just to get a plan even into the planning process to the point where there is environmental review and scrutiny by the different agencies that have jurisdiction out there. It would take at least a year and a half of environmental clearances alone. And the environmental documents don't get drawn up until you have a way of gauging a plan and then measuring it against it. There hasn't been anything close to that. And it is going to take a very substantial budget of dollars to engage the professional services necessary to make it happen. Quite frankly, I don't think the developers of Star Ranch are ready to make those kind of dollar commitments."