Next step for Country Club project

Next step for Country Club project
Renderings of The Villages, the current development proposal for the former Escondido Country Club neighborhood, whose golf course and clubhouse have been closed for more than four years. The developer, New Urban West, proposes to build 392 homes on the 109-acre site. Courtesy photos

ESCONDIDO — On June 28, the city of Escondido released a draft Environmental Impact Report for The Villages, the current development proposal for the former Escondido Country Club neighborhood, whose golf course and clubhouse have been closed for more than four years.

The release commences a 45-day public comment period and represents a new milestone for the project. The report addresses significant environmental impacts associated with The Villages — Escondido Country Club (Project) such as increased traffic congestion and construction noise, among other things.

The developer, New Urban West, proposes to build 392 homes on the 109-acre site.

“The plan features three distinct residential villages, a new $10 million clubhouse with a pool and fitness center along with a neighborhood restaurant and bar, an urban farm as well as the preservation of 44 percent of the property as permanent open space,” according to a written statement issued by New Urban West.

According to New Urban West, its plan represents a compromise by reducing the number of homes from 600 to 392, proposing what it calls “the largest solar powered project in Escondido history” with all new homes having solar, addressing existing road issues and ways to mitigate potential traffic impacts and preserving 48 acres as open space including four miles of trails.

“We spent more than a year meeting with and listening to hundreds of Country Club residents,” said New Urban West officials.

One such resident was Lisa D., who asked that her last name be withheld. She and her husband bought their home on Vaquero two years ago. The couple moved to the Country Club area for its tranquil environment. She said that she supports New Urban West’s development plan in part out of concern over the evidence of vagrants and vandalism that she’s witnessed in areas of the dilapidated former golf course.

“I believe it (the project) would increase property values,” said Lisa D.

She said that her husband, on the other hand, opposes the project because he’s concerned that 392 new homes will bring noise and congestion, the very things that the couple moved to the quiet Country Club neighborhood to escape.

Opinions over how to develop the former Country Club and golf course continue to divide the neighborhood. The Escondido Country Club & Community Homeowners Organization (ECCHO) opposes New Urban West’s plan, referring to it as a “massive housing development.” ECCHO has suggested the housing density be capped at 158 units.

“ECCHO’s purpose is not to revive the original golf course. Rather, its goal is to promote the preservation of open space and recreational assets in a project that will enhance the neighborhood,” according to a statement posted on ECCHO’s website by Mike Slater, ECCHO president.   

While the majority of yard signs seen driving around the Country Club neighborhood support ECCHO, a handful of signs support a new group — Renew Our Country Club, which supports The Villages plan.

“We are thrilled that New Urban West is going to such great lengths to address the traffic circulation problems we have here today and to also accommodate our future neighbors,” said country club resident Mike Finsterbusch, a founding member of Renew Our Country Club. “They have not just listened to our ideas; they have acted on them.”

A public meeting to address the project and EIR will be held at Escondido City Hall, Mitchell Room from 4:40 to 7 p.m. July 31. 

“It will be an open-house style meeting with the purpose of helping the public understand the project and the CEQA process,” said Kristin Blackson, contract planner for the city of Escondido.

The city also has a website for the project and the EIR, which can be found at https://www.escondido.org/ecc.aspx.

In December 2012, Michael Schlesinger obtained ownership of the Escondido Country Club. New Urban West, the developer of two other housing communities in Escondido — Brookside and Harmony Grove — would purchase the site from Schlesinger.

The review period for the draft EIR began on June 28 and ends Aug. 11.

To learn more about the planning process, the current status of the project, or to submit comments (reference Case Number SUB 16-0009), contact Kristin Blackson at kblackson@escondido.org or (760) 839-4543.

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