• Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

Ovadia's beard quivered as he laughed. "We have a lot more community here," he added. "I like living here on the mountain. It would be a shame if they turned it into a town."

Back at the refreshment table, someone asked Scully how many more Campo Hills-style developments the area could withstand before it's no longer the place he's lived in for 30 years. Scully reflected for a moment. "Probably one more."

One more could be in the works. The Star Ranch straddles the two-mile portion of State Route 94 that jogs north from Campo proper to Cameron Corners. The owner of the 2100-acre cattle ranch, Barry DeVorzon, has made it known he'd like to develop his land, clustering 460 houses as well as retail and business properties on 350 acres around Cameron Corners and leaving the rest of the ranch as open grazing area. Though the local planning group voted against the project on July 10, the group is only an advisory body. The county board of supervisors will vote on the project when final plans are submitted about two years from now.

Star Ranch is a hot topic of conversation around Campo. Sitting near the door out to the deck, Jean Bates, 91, and Roger Challberg, 76, discussed it. Bates wore a black cowboy hat adorned with a turquoise-inlay buckle on the front of the band. Her face, a maze of fine wrinkles, testified to decades in the wind and sun of the mountains. Challberg is a local historian whom Jan Martin introduced earlier as "the mayor of Campo." A widower, he has lived on five acres in Campo since 1981. He was clad in an old-fashioned Western-cut suit and a broad-brimmed cavalry hat. His thin, weather-beaten face bore a mustache more than two feet from waxed tip to waxed tip. His philosophy for land development in Campo: "If you've got a piece of property and you want to do something with it, if you meet the regulations and the plans, we're for you. But we're not for you if you're going to rape the land. There's a difference between property development and land rape."

Does the Star Ranch proposal fall under the category of land rape?

"No," Challberg answered, tucking the tips of his mustache into his collar at the nape of his neck. "If you say they're trying to put 460 homes on 350 acres, that sounds like rape. But then if you take the broader picture and say it's 460 homes on 2100 acres -- which means that if you have a house, you're looking at the landscape and cattle ranch, which are going to stay there; they're not going with a bulldozer and cutting out home sites -- that's not rape. I haven't spoken publicly either for or against the project because I haven't seen final plans. But what they're planning is something that blends into the land."

Jean Bates has lived on her 85 acres since 1947. Her plot, three-quarters of a mile west of Buckman Springs Road, is surrounded by Star Ranch. She and her late husband graded a lot of the home sites and roads around Campo over the decades. She's in favor of the Star Ranch development and as a member of the planning group would have voted for it on July 10 had she not recused herself because her land borders Star Ranch. "I'd like to see more growth and development in the area," she said. "We need a grocery store up here so you don't have to drive down the mountain for everything. And we need some industry up here."

Challberg added, "After World War II, there was a clothing factory up here, and there was a button factory. They had a number of things up here that provided employment. We need employment up here again, clean employment that will keep some of these young people on the hill."

"I learned my trade -- sewing machine repair -- right here in Mr. Roberts's factory," said Bates. "He brought his factory down from L.A., and it was in one of these buildings here. But nowadays, there are very few people who live and work here. Most people commute down the hill."

Asked for predictions on Campo's future, Bates answered, "There will be growth. There's no way they can stop it."

Challberg nodded, "There's going to be growth out here."

  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

More from SDReader


Sign in to comment

Win a $25 Gift Card to
The Broken Yolk Cafe

Join our newsletter list

Each newsletter subscription means another chance to win!