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Escondido Country Club decision could be delayed

By J. Harry Jones, August 2, 2017

The homeowners group fighting the development of the Escondido Country Club has requested a time extension that would likely push any final decision into 2018.

Attorney Everett DeLano, who represents the Escondido Country Club Homeowners Organization (ECCHO), has asked the city to extend for another 45 days the comment period during which people can examine and critique a draft environmental report.

The comment period is now scheduled to end Aug. 11. City officials had said a final decision on developer New Urban West’s proposal to build 392 houses on 109 acres of the community’s abandoned golf course would be made by Thanksgiving.

If the comment period is extended that would assure that the decision will be pushed back until after the holidays.

ill Martin, the city’s director of community development, said the city had not yet seen the request but said it would not be unusual to grant some sort of extension, although 45 days seemed excessive.

In his letter, DeLano stressed the importance of the project to the northwestern part of the city.

“The project has an extensive history, and the site has been the subject of substantial interest for several years. Additionally, the project also poses several potential environmental issues, and the (environmental report) and its appendices involve several volumes of information.”

Mike Slater, the president of ECCHO, said more time is needed for the homeowners to raise funds and hire experts to look at the report.

“You can be sure they had a lot of experts putting it together,” he said during an informal meeting held Monday night at City Hall that attracted hundreds of people who asked questions and expressed concerns about the project.

The golf course at the country club was closed in early 2013 after it was purchased by real estate entrepreneur Michael Schlesinger, who quickly announced plans to build up to 600 houses on the former links.

The neighborhood, which was built around the greens, fairways and tees of the course, quickly mobilized and were able to convince the City Council to declare the property permanent open space.

Schlesinger tried to get that overturned in 2014 during the election but failed.

A short time later however, the courts ruled that Schlesinger’s rights had been violated by the council’s open space declaration. The city then settled a lawsuit and Schlesinger picked New Urban West to be the developer to pursue a project.

ECCHO, which at one time was committed to the golf course being returned to life, has now accepted that some sort of development is fated but the group wants to see housing density of roughly half of what is now planned.

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