The prospect baffles Jamul real estate broker Ken Rupe: that in a couple of years, tourists from New York, Chicago or Detroit--or even Los Angeles--might seek out Jamul, of all places, for a resort-style golf vacation.
C'mon. Jamul? La Costa, maybe, or Mission Bay. But Jamul?
"We're on a two-lane highway that doesn't go anywhere. If you're up to your kazoo in snow, are you going to want to come back to some laid-back, redneck community like ours?" he asks. "Heck, you'll want to be along the coast. We don't even have a bar that stays open past 10. We watch the grass grow for excitement. Who'd want to come to Jamul for a vacation?"
Luxury Resort Planned
Rupe's skewed sense of local boosterism notwithstanding, the Ohio-based Stouffer Hotel Co. has announced plans to build a 425-room luxury resort hotel and an 18-hole golf course in uptown Jamul, a couple of blocks west of downtown Jamul, some 23 miles southeast of downtown San Diego.
The development has been quietly planned for more than 5 years--even overlapping the controversial proposal to build the Honey Springs residential and commercial development 5 miles east of Jamul.
The Honey Springs plan was approved by the county Board of Supervisors in 1982 but challenged by opponents as leapfrog urban development. It called for 2,000 acres of agricultural preserve to be taken out of that status and be developed instead with commercial uses and 400 homes, clustered on 600 acres with the balance held in open space.
A 2-year-long environmental, political and courtroom debate over Honey Springs finally culminated in 1984 with the state Supreme Court upholding a lower court ruling, and thus quashing the development on the grounds that the agricultural preserve should not have been dissolved to allow for the project.
In the Works
All the while, others were planning their own project closer to the center of Jamul, population 7,800. Led by attorney Peter Aylward, who lives in the area, a group of investors acquired the necessary property. In 1983, they won approval from the Board of Supervisors for a new specific plan that called for a 315-acre resort-conference center intended to attract business executives for weeklong work-play retreats. It would be surrounded by about 170 estate-size residential lots spread out over nearly 400 acres of adjoining hillsides.
So as Honey Springs was being attacked on environmental and legal grounds, plans for Las Montanas Estates and the adjacent Las Montanas Resort hotel-and-golf project were moving forward with nary a whimper of opposition, first winning the blessing of the Jamul Planning Group and ultimately endorsed by county supervisors.
Even Gerald Petrone, who sat on the advisory planning group and was one of the leading opponents of the Honey Springs project, voted to support the Las Montanas proposal.
"It seemed to be a land use that was compatible with the area. There wasn't any opposition to it because it didn't call for dense housing or an overburdening of schools or other public services that denser housing projects like Honey Springs would have created," Petrone said. "Honey Springs stuck out like a sore thumb in the middle of large tracts of empty acreage. This one didn't have that problem."
Last Major Hurdle
A specific plan for the project was approved in 1983 and adopted in 1986, and now the last remaining major hurdle for the project is receipt of a major use permit, which can be granted simply by the county's Planning and Environmental Review Board (PERB)--a collection of county staff members. The project would only go to the county Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors if PERB's decision is appealed.
An environmental impact report is now open for public review on the project, which will slope downward in both directions from a ridgeline that runs between, and parallel to, Jamul Drive and California 94, west of Lyons Valley Road. Part of the project will spill over onto the south side of California 94.
While there is some general concern that the project will generate too much traffic on the two thoroughfares through Jamul, there is no organized or strong opposition to the resort project.
"The word is still getting out that Stouffer bought the project, and we may hear protests as the word spreads," said Marcia Spurgeon, a member of the local school board.
"But this project is apples-and-oranges (as a comparison) to Honey Springs. And the Las Montanas people have done some things right that the Honey Springs people didn't--like meeting with neighbors first and discussing the plan. They showed greater insight in how to work with the community."
Will 'Fit in'
Might the project alter the complexion of Jamul from one of a back-country town to a destination golf resort?