City, developer reach settlement over Country Club housing project

City, developer reach settlement over Country Club housing project
The city of Escondido and developer Michael Schlesinger reach a settlement agreement over the proposed housing project at the now defunct County Club property. File photo

ESCONDIDO — After years of contention, the City Council announced Wednesday a settlement agreement to a lawsuit brought on by development company Stuck in the Rough regarding the defunct Escondido Country Club and plans to build hundreds of homes.

City Attorney Jeffery Epp said part of the deal includes each party covering their own legal costs and a court ruling invalidated an open space initiative, which will remain in place and the city will not appeal.

According to the settlement, Stuck in the Rough will withdraw its most recent application and will not be the applicant on any future development, although it retains the right to select the next developer.

Stuck in the Rough, which is owned by developer Michael Schlesinger, announced plans to build more than 600 homes at the club after buying the land in December 2012. The latest proposal aimed to construct 270 residences, but came with strong pushback from the Escondido Country Club Homeowners (ECCHO) asking the council to declare the course an open space.

Soon after the city complied with ECCHO’s request, Schlesinger filed suit.

Schlesinger’s company, however, still maintains ownership rights of the course, but the city will not engage in another deal with Stuck in the Rough. Instead, any future development has been whittled down to three other groups, according to Epp.

Those developers include KB Home, Zephyr and California West Communities, according to the settlement.

He said the city would process any application, although those groups must work in concert with the city, along with residents on the course.

Mayor Sam Abed, meanwhile, spoke to a group of ECCHO residents at the meeting saying, “We are with you, we stand by you.”

In addition, Abed said residents have “a seat at the table,” and said the deal is a win and best possible outcome for the city moving forward.

The mayor also spoke about how much of the agreement was done in closed sessions, which is allowable under state law. The reason for Epp’s statement, he said, was to provide as much transparency as possible to residents.

Deputy Mayor Michael Morasco added there is still much to discuss and review in the coming days and weeks. He, too, added the residents have “a seat at the table,” while councilman John Masson said the council is committed to the process and will move forward in a positive way.

As for Schlesinger, Abed said the city will not work with him “because we’ve seen how he deals with the city.”

The developer was fined $100,000 by the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District in September after spreading about five tons of chicken manure on the course in 2014.

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