New Urban West and ECCHO (Escondido Country Club Homeowners) are squaring off for a battle that will be played out in the chambers of the Escondido City Council in future months.
Several weeks ago NUW submitted a plan to the council for the former Escondido Country Club area for 392 new homes on the property owned by Michael Schlesinger of “Stuck in the Rough.”
ECCHO says the plan is only slightly less dense than Schlesinger’s original. Schlesinger’s city initiative, Proposition H that would have forced the city to allow that development was defeated by the voters two years ago.
Since then Schlesinger signed an agreement with the city that put the property’s development into the hands of NUW, without any involvement by Schlesinger — except that he had to sign off on the final proposal.
The other development is that NUW has managed to peel some residents of the Country Club area away from ECCHO. They have formed their own group, Renewal of the Country Club, or ROCC — which supports the proposed project and says it will be urging the city council to approve it.
NUW claims the proposal “will reinvigorate the entire area.” The plan, which NUW insists was put together with “community input over the past several months,” includes:
• 46-acre open space system,
• Landscaped 32-acre greenbelt with
four miles of walking trails,
• 6 parks including two dog parks
• 3 new residential villages
• A neighborhood restaurant and bar
• New club house with pool, gym, a
tennis court etc.
According to NUW, “All of the new benefits and amenities to be located in the heart of the Country Club community will be built and maintained at no cost to current homeowners.”
A founding member of ROCC, Mike Finsterbusch, has been quoted as saying, “This is a great plan for our community. It will breathe new life into our neighborhoods and finally put a stop to what has been nothing short of a nightmare for all of us.”
If the city council approves of the new plan, NUW will go forward with purchasing the land from Schlesinger.
The council will likely face intense pressure from ECCHO to oppose the project. But first it must be subjected to environmental review that will likely take at least a year. The council won’t vote on it before late 2018.
Mike Slater, president of ECCHO, greeted the new plan with this statement: “We opposed 420 homes two years ago and we sure aren’t going to support 392 now.”
In its newsletter to the residents the ECCHO board reiterated that point. “ECCHO has recently received many requests asking how to get the message to City Council that 392 houses are far too many houses to be built within Escondido Country Club (contact info follows at the bottom.) We support a viable project that will please all, not ‘Stuck in the Rough II.’ ECCHO will continue to meet with City Council, but the best way to convey your thoughts to City Council is to write/ call/email on your own to explain your feelings.”
On November 6, under the subject heading: “Schlesinger is back!” ECCHO sent a call to arms email to members:
“Neighbors and friends –
“Remember the 430-unit housing development that we all voted on in 2014 – Prop H? That’s the one more than 61% of Escondido voters turned down. Well, it’s back, and guess who signed the application filed with the City just this last week? You guessed it – Stuck in the Rough by Michael Schlesinger! And the project is nearly identical to the one we all voted ‘NO’ on.”
Asked to comment, a spokesman for NUWI said: “Unfortunately, ECCHO is trying to confuse you.” The spokesman added, “NUW has submitted its plan to the City of Escondido. The plan is based on the input of more than 1,000 Country Club residents over the past nine months. . . .Our plan includes more open space, more parks, more trails and fewer homes than what was included in Proposition H a couple years ago.”
The spokesman added, “While NUW submitted its plan, the city — not surprisingly — requires the property owner (Schlesinger) to also sign the application. After all, he’s the property owner. Schlesinger signed the application only because it was required by the city. ECCHO knows this. Sadly, ECCHO is trying to fool people into thinking Schlesinger was involved in this plan. He was not. In fact, he is legally prohibited from being involved based on his settlement with the city. ECCHO is just playing games.”
The Times-Advocate sought comments from two members of ROCC for why they are not standing with ECCHO. John DeLong said, “We purchased our home in late March of 2016 and it sits right on the old course so we knew eventually it was going to be developed and quite honestly the quicker the better. We were never part of ECCHO.
“Since living here we have seen some very disturbing things, homeless people sleeping at the old clubhouse and golf cart maintenance building, drug activity at the golf cart maintenance building. Country Club Lane is a serious traffic hazard, cars speeding at up to 70 miles an hour on a regular basis, drag races, cars running the stop signs at Nutmeg, La Brea and Gary Lane on a daily basis.
“The neighborhood is rapidly becoming a dilapidated mess and another three years of doing nothing will only make matters worse. I’m not even sure if another three years of no activity if the community will be able to be renewed, it might be too late.
“There are many of us that disagree with ECCHO and many more who feel their opinions do not matter if they are contrary to ECCHO’s. Through word of mouth and social media we have connected and decided to form a group that would help support the much needed “positive” change that the neighborhood so desperately needs.
“New Urban West has gone out of its way to hear what the community wants and prepared a well thought out plan that provides much of the items residents indicated that they would like to see. I might add completely opposite of the original developer and the two plans are so vastly different. Plus, the City has a history with New Urban West.
“We are very much looking forward in providing input that will help in shaping the next chapter of the former Escondido Country Club and finally bringing an end to this sad very chapter.”
Mike Finsterbusch, another member of ROCC, told the Times-Advocate, “In a nutshell for me it was the fact my views and desires did not parallel those of ECCHO. Simply put, I was not represented by the ECCHO community. After the golf course closure, court decision and consent decree clearly pointed to this land was going to be developed, my strong desire was to see a development that would benefit my neighborhood and surroundings.
“I absolutely believe the community outreach extended by New Urban West to the CC community, prior to plan development was upfront and they listened. The NEW plan has less density housing per acre and more open space (40%) than first proposed. 4 miles of walking trails and remedies to control increased vehicular traffic.”
Finsterbusch says ECCHO is living in the past and not dealing with the court ruling that the city could not prevent Schlesinger from developing something. “We are an alternative to ECCHO. Social media through organic growth brought us together. I and at the time a few others noticed on social networking others who we supportive of development. We all got blasted by ECCO but we realized we were not alone in our views.”
The anti-ECCHO group began chatting online and learned they had significant numbers. “We have no board of directors, no budget, just a desire to connect like-minded people together so we are heard too,” said Finsterbusch. “Today I know of over 200 people who truly desire to see positive change that includes development. We will be heard by the city and others very soon. Given a choice “do nothing (ECCHO) or a well-planned development geared towards families. I’ll take new families and homes in a heartbeat.”