Company to Develop North County Enclave : Firm Mulls Ex-Owner's Plans for Exclusive High-in-the-Sky Suburb

Times Staff Writer

Southmark Pacific, a Pasadena-based development firm, has taken over the task of developing an exclusive enclave for the rich high in the North County hills. Fittingly, the exclusive new mountaintop suburb will be named Rancho Cielo, which translates as sky ranch.

Cynthia Shaffer, vice president of the firm and of its affiliate, Rancho Cielo Development Co., said it is against company policy to reveal the purchase price for the 1,770 acres of rugged real estate the firm acquired in the hills west of Lake Hodges and northeast of Rancho Santa Fe. She also said that the firm is still mulling over the county-approved plans of the former owner, Air Logistics Inc., to decide if any changes or improvements are necessary.

Helicopter Commuting

Air Logistics earned the enmity of surrounding residents in Del Dios, Elfin Forest and Rancho Santa Fe earlier by proposing to locate a heliport within the development so that residents and guests from Rancho Cielo could commute by air, high above the crowded highways and freeways that have become part of life in Southern California, to airports throughout Southern California from their Rancho Cielo aerie.

Shaffer said Brian F. Mooney Associates, a Scripps Ranch planning consultant, is reviewing the Air Logistics plans and tailoring them for the new landowner. Tentative maps for portions of the project will be submitted to county planners soon for final approval, but the first residents are not likely to move in for a year or more because of county requirements that road, drainage and other public improvements be completed beforehand.

This mountaintop retreat brought little opposition from its rural neighbors when the county Board of Supervisors approved plans for a resort, complete with inn, golf course, spa and recreational facilities, in 1984. It was only when the North County residents learned that future residents of the locked-gate community and visitors at the resort would be buzzing the local countryside on their helicopter flights that the outcries were heard.

12 Round-Trip Flights a Day

In a refinement of its Rancho Cielo plans last July, Air Logistics, a defense contracting firm, proposed the privately owned heliport that would handle 12 round-trip flights a day to Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, Lindbergh Field, John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Palm Springs and other destinations.

The proposal drew a cool reception from county supervisors and never came up for a formal hearing.

Shaffer said plans for the heliport are still up in the air, as are the specifics of the residential and resort construction, which will take place on the 1,700 acres Southmark acquired from Air Logistics in mid-October.

But, she said, Southmark is moving to complete permits on two segments of the development that would be up for county approval early next year. The initial development calls for about 110 residential units of the 550 homes approved for the entire Southmark property, but none of the resort facilities or the heliport.

Before the first units can be put on the market, however, Southmark will have to improve portions of the Del Dios Highway (Route S-6) and build a section of the controversial future highway, SA 680, which is scheduled to provide a six-lane east-west road from Interstate 5 at Leucadia to Interstate 15 near Poway. The road improvement requirements are part of the conditions placed on the development when Air Logistics gained county approval in 1984.

Bob Asher of the county Department of Planning and Land Use said that the Rancho Cielo resort and heliport facilities, while approved as part of the development plan, would require further special permits from the county and other governmental agencies before they can be built.

The first Rancho Cielo plan, proposed in 1981 by a myriad of landowners, called for a 2,700-acre gated residential community, without heliport or resort facilities. That plan never got off the ground because the landowners could not agree on an overall development plan.

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