POWAY, Calif. (KGTV) - Poway's city council is expected to vote Tuesday night to move forward toward demolition of the Big Stone Lodge, which could pave the way for its consideration as a site for a long-sought affordable housing complex for veterans in the city.
The property on Old Pomerado Road is one of the most historic sites in Poway, dating back to an old lodge used as a stopover on the stagecoach route into San Diego. Later, it became the location for popular restaurants, a dance hall, and a notoriously rowdy honky tonk. When the homes were built along the current Pomerado Road, residents complained of noise from the Big Stone Lodge, leading to its closure. It's been abandoned for decades and the city bought the land in 2003.
"It's pretty shocking as far as how dilapidated it is," Poway City Councilmember Caylin Frank told 10News. "We know that we've had vandals. We've had people breaking in to do who knows what. So at this point it's really become a health and safety risk for the city."
There seems to be general agreement that the building will need to be torn down. However, there's a battle brewing over what to do with the land. In 2018, the city transferred the property to the Poway Housing Authority, which has designated it for affordable housing. Housing advocates have been trying for years to build an affordable housing complex for veterans. A plan was developed for an empty lot on Twin Peaks Road, but after an uproar by nearby residents, the council voted against the plan 3-2. Supporters of that project have pitched the Big Stone Lodge site as a replacement. Frank says Poway will need to pick sites for more housing, but wants to study multiple options, including the Big Stone Lodge.
A group of Poway residents oppose putting housing at the Big Stone Lodge, citing the site's historic nature and concerns over increased traffic in the area. "Anywhere but here," said Mary Shepardson, Vice-President of the Poway Historical Society. "This is not suited for building on." Shepardson and others are urging the council to turn the land into a passive park, preserving what parts of the Big Stone Lodge can be saved, including native plants and trees.
Frank says she expects the city to move forward with demolishing the structures on the site. She said she hopes a plan for the property will be settled on in 2020.