ESCONDIDO (CBS 8) – A major ruling affecting North County homeowners on Friday.
A Superior Court judge sided with the developer who challenged the move by the City of Escondido to protect the former Escondido Country Club Golf Course as open space.
“Disappointment,” said Mike Slater, Escondido Country Club Homeowners Organization President. “We would hope with the land use process we would hopefully have a seat at the table and negotiate and come up with something that will make everyone happy. I don't think we ever will, you never can.”
Residents in their golden years say they don't enjoy their nightly strolls with their dogs as much as they did when it was a golf course.
“It's like a jungle, it's terrible. It's overgrown,” said Pat Peitzcker, Country Club resident.
Weeds started sprouting when Beverly Hills developer, Michael Schlesinger, with Stuck In The Rough put up the chain link fence. In 2012 he bought the 110 acres, shutdown the golf course and proposed to build 600 homes. He challenged the city council who changed the zoning ordinance after he purchased the land from from residential to open space, which blocked the project.
“We have a house that we are very proud of and it's stuck here in the middle of a bunch of garbage,” said Cliff Adcock, Country Club resident.
For years the Escondido Country Club Homeowners Organization (ECCHO) has been victorious in blocking the housing project but on Friday a judge agreed with the developer saying the city council ‘unfairly discriminated' against Stuck In The Rough property by approving an ordinance that would change the already residential zoned land to open space.
Schlesinger issued a statement:
“The court's decision to restore the residential designation for the former Escondido Country Club site paves the way for the City, neighborhood homeowners, and ourselves as the property owner to resolve the future use of the site. To do so will require all parties to join us in what we've already done on more than one occasion -- to look beyond our original expectations to find a compromise that meets all of our needs.
Thus far, the only true “winners” in this case have been the lawyers on both sides who have collectively billed more than $2 million in legal fees. Since the city is now financially responsible for those fees, it is my hope the city will forego the additional costs of an appeal and instead work with us and the community to finalize a plan that substantially reduces the number of homes from earlier proposals. By working together, we can achieve a plan that is compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods while respecting the property owner's right to develop the property within the allowable residential designation and zoning.”
“He has been bullying, trying to intimidate us, insult us with chicken manure,” said Slater.
Other homeowners understand the residents don't rule the property but would like to see developer work with neighbors.
“He has his rights granted but he has been such a jerk about it," said Adcock.
Despite the past, the grassroots organization hopes to have a seat at the table to negotiate.
ECCHO released a survey in February where a majority of the residents favored a golf course, boutique hotel, bike trails, park and restaurants.
The judge's decision means the land should be zoned residential. The developer says he scaled down his project to 270 homes.
An employee at the mayor's office says the office is not commenting because of pending litigation and wouldn't say if the city will file an appeal.