Recently the times-Advocate published an article on the Escondido Country Club saga and the announcement that ECCHO had settled the suit against NUWI and SITR. As a resident of the area, I would like to offer a different perspective.
When we bought our home here the seller’s agent told us that the golf course was a permanent fixture of the area. I immediately challenged her: “You can’t promise me that” but she replied “Yes, it is in the public record.” And she was right. When the surrounding homes were built, the City Planning Department and City Council granted multiple variances to the developers. Narrow streets, small lots, short setbacks and other specific changes were made to the rules because the damage they caused were mitigated by the open space provided by the golf course.
This land was not set aside for more homes to be built. In fact, when one of the current City Council members was first elected, she looked for property in the city that could be developed, and the golf course was not available. Michael Schlesinger complained that not allowing him a windfall on the property amounted to an “illegal taking” and that is exactly what has happened to the homeowners in the area. He took our open space without mitigating the damage that he will cause.
The announcement from NUWI and ECCHO refers to the area as “blighted,” and I take offense at that. It was never blighted until SITR came to town. But I am in perfect agreement with Schlesinger on one count: he stated during a City Council meeting that he would let the property sit for 300 years before he would sell it, and I am in favor of that. The golf course looks like the thousands and thousands of acres of backcountry in Southern California, and I’d rather live next to this than 380 more homes crammed onto the space.
The elected representatives and staff of the City of Escondido let the residents down. The only reason for government is to protect society, and in this case the city failed. Either by accident or intention, this property was made available to a greedy developer that used his money and influence to harm the residents. Proposition S was approved by voters in Escondido to combat just this sort of project, and the City failed to follow its own rules. This project should have gone to a vote of the citizens – but wait, it was – Proposition H – which failed by a wide majority.
There are too many existing traffic issues in the area that can’t be helped by adding hundreds of vehicles and thousands of daily trips through the area. The developer has promised to mitigate these problems but adding traffic circles and stop lights brings even more cars and more issues.
For many of us in the Escondido Country Club area, this fight is not yet over.
MICHAEL J. UHL, Escondido