A golfer tees off at the San Luis Rey Downs Golf Course before it closed in August. The property may be turned into a land bank. File photo by Promise Yee
A golfer tees off at the San Luis Rey Downs Golf Course before it closed in August. The property may be turned into a land bank. File photo by Promise Yee
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San Luis Rey Downs Golf Course closed — now what?

BONSALL — The San Luis Rey Downs Golf Course closed on Aug. 6, with plans to turn the property into a land mitigation site. Aproximatly 185 acres of the 240-acre site may be restored to wetland habitat.

The process to designate the site a land bank, which developers could buy into to satisfy requirements for building elsewhere, is at the halfway point.

The Army Corps of Engineers confirmed the land met minimum requirements for consideration.

Now it is up to the property owner to write a proposal that the Army Corps may approve for site designation.

There is no time limit for the owner to complete the proposal.

Therese Bradford, chief of the south coast branch of the regulatory division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said preparation of the proposal could take months or years.

Golfers asked that the course remain open through the lengthy negotiation process, but Kevin Knowles, president of Conservation Land Group that represents the property owner, said the course is closed for good.

Unique to most mitigation sites, the land neighbors homes. Residents voiced concerns that a habitat area could restrict all recreational access and may pose a fire hazard.

Bradford said she recommended that Knowles and the owner work with residents who live around the former golf course and include their needs in the proposal.

“What we’ve heard from the community and from the officials is there needs to be attention to fire breaks, attention to recreation needs,” Bradford said. “So we’re looking forward to seeing what they come up with.”

Once the draft proposal is in hand, the Army Corps of Engineers has a strict 90-day timeline to review and comment on the proposal.

Then the owner must prepare a final proposal, and the Army Corps of Engineers has 75 days to address any disputes and give approval.

Since the golf course closed, Knowles was contacted by The Coast News, but did not reply to questions on when the proposal would be completed.

He said in a previous interview he expects the mitigation project to be approved sometime next year.

In order for that to happen the proposal needs to be ready within 10 months.

It remains a wait-and-see for the proposal to be completed and a determination to be made.

If the site is approved as a land bank, long-term benefits include preservation of open space, less demand on groundwater, better overall water quality and flood control.

Improvements to the stream channel and floodplain terrace will allow water to meander through the site, reduce flow rates during storms and alleviate flooding.

The site also has the environmental benefit of being located within a suite of conservation properties, which provides wildlife a long stretch of protected land.

Allowance of limited public access will be determined in the mitigation process.

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