Study finds flaws in plan to replace Escondido Country Club golf course with housing development

ESCONDIDO, Calif. - A new report obtained by 10News is giving a big thumbs down to plans to turn a former golf course in Escondido into a housing development.

While that is good news for many residents currently living in the area, one big hurdle remains before they can stop the project -- informing the residents to vote against the plan before the November election.

Many homeowners bought their homes specifically because of the beautiful Escondido Country Club, and they say the country club owner has let the course go.

Resident Loreta Ruggles told 10News, "I've been here since '94. It was beautiful. Look at it now."

The grass on the course is all brown, and the lakes are all dried up. Many residents say it didn't look this way the previous 45 years.

Resident Scott Fountain said, "Now it's a desert. Look at it."

Residents say the golf course's owner, Michael Schlesinger, turned off the water at the course about a year and a half ago. There are claims he even sprinkled chicken manure over the grounds that left a foul smell.

Schlesinger had plans to build 450 new homes over the land, but residents and the Escondido officials say the golf course was originally built, proposed and approved more for open space than for a big housing development.

"There a lot of people that bought their homes many years ago as an investment property, as a retirement property. They can't afford to move away," said resident Coleen Stricker.

The city ordered a study that will be presented to the Escondido City Council on Wednesday. The city's 36-page report found the development would:

-- Increase traffic by more than 5,000 daily trips
-- Use 173,000 more gallons of water each day than the golf course did
-- Drive up maintenance and operations costs for the city of Escondido, eliminating all property tax gains

"The report simply confirms what we've all felt from the beginning," said Stricker.

A spokesperson for the owner of the course said the company commissioned its own study and their findings conflict with the city report. Their study found Water consumption would decline and not increase if the development goes in.

Schlesinger has stated in the past that there's no compromising with residents of the Escondido Country Club and Community Homeowners Organization. He believes they're "fighting to keep a private park despite the fact that it's been in bankruptcy three times and its membership had dwindled to 130 members."

When the Escondido City Council meets Wednesday, it plans to officially put the issue on the November ballot so residents can decide for themselves what they want for their neighborhood.

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