Fate of Country Club left to voters

ESCONDIDO— The decision on whether or not the Escondido Country Club can be redeveloped into 430 homes by Michael Schlesinger, of Stuck in The Rough (SITR), is officially in the hands of the voters.

City Council unanimously approved the addition of the initiative to the November ballot at Wednesday’s City Council Meeting.

The initiative has yet to be named, but many residents already have a staunch opinion since the debate on the property has been raging since 2012.

“If the development proposed by Michael Schlesinger were to come to fruition, he would make our Escondido look like his Los Angeles,” Escondido Country Club Homeowners Organization (ECCHO) member Constance Smeyres told the council.

Tensions have been high between Schlesinger, of Beverly Hills, and surrounding Country Club residents after he purchased the site in December 2012.

Within four months, he canceled Country Club memberships and added chain link fences around the property. He also announced plans to build 430 homes on the site.

Residents in the area formed ECCHO to fight the redevelopment plans. The members launched an initiative to designate the golf course as permanent open space in the city’s Master Plan. The initiative passed last year in August.

The new initiative being added to the ballot in November, seeks to overturn the Country Club’s permanent designation of open space.

Schlesinger has been unpopular with residents because he has made “no friendly contact with the natives,” Media Director of ECCHO Colleen Stricker, told City Council.

Last November, Schlesinger filed a lawsuit against the city to try and invalidate the open space designation and seek monetary damages for the city’s “regulatory taking” of his property, according to the staff report issued by the city.

The lawsuit also stated that the Country Club’s zoning allowed for the construction of the homes.

In addition, Schlesinger launched 24 individual lawsuits on residents for encroachment on his land between October and December of last year.

In April of 2014, Schlesinger paid a firm to spread chicken manure all over the golf course, which hadn’t been irrigated regularly. He was then cited by the County’s Air Pollution Control District for a Level 5 odor, which is the worst rating a smell can get.

Council members also voiced their distaste for the 430 home development.

“We just want back what was there,” Councilman Ed Gallo said of the Country Club, “I don’t think that’s asking too much.”

Former state senator Dennis Hollingsworth was at the meeting to represent Escondido Coalition for Open Space, which supports the development of the golf course.

He chastised the report released by the city for being biased and uninformative.

“This report is supposed to provide objective information to better inform the electorate about the initiative,” Hollingsworth told the council, “This report does none of that. Instead it does the opposite.  It appears to be designed to confuse the public by focusing on the property owner and the irrelevant history of the development of the site.”

Both sides will likely start campaigning once the initiative is titled in mid-August.

 

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