ESCONDIDO— Mayor Sam Abed held his ninth town hall meeting May 14 and the majority of residents voiced their concerns regarding the Escondido Country Club.
Abed said the city has the same interests as the nearby residents.
He said Country Club developer Michael Schlesinger’s past actions were unacceptable.
“When I met with him a couple of weeks ago, I said ‘Mike, there is a problem,’ he said ‘what’s the problem,’ I said, ‘Mike, you are the problem,’” Abed said.
The city recently lost a court ruling after Schlesinger pursued legal recourse for what he considered to be an illegal taking of his property after the city declared the golf course permanent open space.
The council will meet in closed session May 20 to discuss the legal options on whether to appeal, or accept the ruling.
According to the City Attorney Jeffrey Epp, the city could decide to “sit tight,” and not do anything yet, or could decide to appeal the decision.
An announcement will be made after the closed session.
Epp said thus far, the city has done a good job of keeping their options open.
After meeting with the homeowners surrounding the Country Club, Abed said the majority of people want to see some kind of solution.
Abed said even if the city won an appeal, Schlesinger would likely appeal to federal court, drawing the process out even longer.
One solution the mayor sees is having Schlesinger sell the property to a different developer that works with the community.
“The country club is an old community that needs revitalization,” said Abed. “To move forward with the process he needs to be out of it.”
Dick Daniels, a representative for Schlesinger said there are no plans to sell the property.
Most recently, Schlesinger submitted plans to build 270 homes on the 109.3-acre site.
Daniels said Schlesinger is in the process of interviewing homebuilders for the project.
Mayor Abed stressed the importance of a compromise, saying that 300 homes isn’t realistic for the property and neither is having it all open space.
“I think both are not a good solution. We can come up with a solution that provides amenities, open space and provides a good project that benefits the community,” Abed said.
Even though the project is far from receiving approval, some residents argued that it’s hypocritical to ask residents to cut down on water use while allowing more development.
Abed said that according to state law, the city cannot deny projects based on water use until the state has elevated mandated cutbacks to Drought Response Level Four.
Currently, the state is at Drought Response Level Two.
The city is in the process of implementing a recycled water program. Recently, the city issued an $80 million bond for the project.
“Escondido has really put that on a fast-tracking process. Actually, the first recycled water will be delivered next year to the agricultural customers,” said Abed.
On average, Escondido residents use 63 gallons of water per day, which is much lower than surrounding neighborhoods.
However, those served by the Rincon Del Diablo Water District use about 110 gallons a day.
Residents in The San Dieguito Water District, which serves Encinitas, average 110 gallons per capita per day.
Other issues that came up at the meeting were youth’s access to drug and alcohol and traffic on El Norte Parkway.
Abed said all city buildings are smoke free but the city can’t regulate what people do in their private homes.
He also encouraged residents to tell the city which streets they have the most problems with because city staff is prioritizing traffic projects.