This just has to stop.
The residents and supporters of the Escondido Country Club Home Owner’s group (ECCHO) is threatening to file yet another lawsuit in their quixotic attempt to override the approval given to developer New Urban West by the City of Escondido to build 380 homes on the defunct golf course property. If they follow through on their threats, they will succeed only in ensuring that their neighbors who support this project, and the city as a whole, will suffer along with them as more months and years go by with nothing happening on the property.
You would think that, by now, they would have learned. When property owner Michael Schlesinger acquired … and subsequently closed … the golf course that was in bankruptcy, he determined that the zoning on the property would allow the construction of potentially as many as 600 homes. He approached the city with what seemed to be a reasonable proposal that he build 270. The outrage that followed from ECCHO, and their insistence that nothing be built on the site, prompted the City Council (in an election year) to make the very injudicious decision to declare the subject property “open space” in contravention to the city’s General Plan designation.
That decision prompted what any first-year law student or (practicing Realtor) would tell you would happen: namely, a lawsuit by the property owner seeking relief from a regulatory taking. And, after the city ended up stepping in and essentially bailed out the ECCHO folks by taking on the defense of their position, Escondido taxpayers eventually ended up footing a legal bill and cost of settlement well in excess of $500,000, when the judge hearing the case ruled in the property owner’s favor. Nice.
What did ECCHO get out of the settlement, you may ask? Well, they got a developer with a proven track record and plenty of goodwill in the city to take on the task of coming up with a plan that would hopefully result in a compromise that all could live with. Unfortunately, “compromise” would appear to be a word that in the minds of some ECCHO people means “my way, or the highway.” The controversy that has ensued now has pitted neighbor against neighbor, eroded longtime friendships, and unless this stops, threatens to continue the decline of property values relative to the overall economy for everyone who lives in that community … whether they are for the approved development, or not.
Filing a lawsuit is almost certain to bring a halt to New Urban West’s plans to purchase the property and, will very likely result in the next developer willing to take this on proposing … and getting … even higher densities. ECCHO recalcitrance has already succeeded in raising proposed densities from 270 homes to 380. Apparently, they will only be satisfied when they lose another round and the site is home to even more homes. What a brilliant strategy.
Stop the madness.
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Kirk Effinger is a Realtor and Escondido resident. He was an opinion columnist for the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune for several years. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org