ESCONDIDO — It was one big step forward for New Urban West, Inc., but its plan for 380 homes at the Escondido Country Club, dubbed the Villages, still has another hurdle.
The Escondido Planning Commission voted 5-1 on Oct. 24 at City Hall to recommend NUWI’s development in the northwest part of the city to the City Council, which will hear the matter Nov. 15. Commissioner Joe Garcia was the lone no vote and Stan Weiler recused himself due to a conflict of interest.
The three-hour meeting featured dozens of residents speaking, mainly from two groups — Renew Our Country Club and the Escondido Country Club Homeowners Organization — each sporting shirts for their cause. Of the 119 in attendance, 60 were against and 59 supported the project, according to a tally by city staff.
“I walked the course last week,” Commissioner Jeff Weber said. “I can’t find a reason not to support it. It’s time to accept change and move on.”
In addition to the 380 homes, NUWI’s plan also calls for 48.9 acres of open space including parks and a greenbelt, four miles of trails and renovating the dilapidated clubhouse. There will be three Village sites, each with different architecture, along with road improvements on Country Club Lane.
Many supporters of the project railed against the clubhouse as a source of graffiti, gang activity and slumping property values. Many said the environment isn’t safe for their kids.
“It’s extremely encouraging, “Miles Grimes of ROCC said. “What you heard from each of them was they were pouring over the documents, the comments made by people in our community and poured over the EIR. Five out of six could not find a legitimate reason to oppose the plan.”
Opponents, meanwhile, railed against increased traffic, noise, the overall scale of the project, saying 380 homes are far too many, and rezoning the area to accommodate the plan. Several also called into question the environmental impact report, saying it was biased toward NUWI.
“I have to question city staff’s involvement,” ECCHO President Mike Slater said. “ECCHO asks you reject the EIR and deem the project inadequate.”
ECCHO attorney Everett Delano spoke before the commission and said there is alternative option. He, along with ECCHO, sent the city a letter outlining a proposal for 158 units without rezoning and less traffic.
However, Jonathan Frankel, project manager for NUWI, said more than one year of public outreach garnered 462 letters of support and highlighted numerous residents and their excitement for the project.
“We have a long history in this city and that is why we are excited to compete for the country club,” Frankel said. “We are grateful to the commission for their support, but more importantly, for listening to the growing number of residents who want to end this long saga and renew their community. Tonight’s meeting was a thoughtful discussion about the future of the country club community, and we look forward to bringing this proposal before the City Council next month.”
The battle over the country club has been ongoing for the past several years and quickly escalated over a dispute over property rights between the owner, Michael Schlesinger, and the city as part of a plan for 600 homes. Schlesinger then dumped tons of chicken manure on the golf course as tensions rose between him, the city and ECCHO.