With each side spinning a victorious tale Wednesday, a long-simmering and sometimes outright smelly dispute over the re-development of the once-proud Escondido Golf Course property seems to have been settled.
Controversial property owner of said former 110-acre golf course site, Stuck in the Rough, L.L.C. reached and agreement with the Escondido City Council to drop its lawsuit against the city over the property’s zoning.
This dispute reached olfactory proportions last year when property neighbors claimed Stuck in the Rough dumped an estimated 5 tons of chicken manure on several abandoned fairways in apparent retaliation against them for opposing development plans.
Company officials said they simply were fertilizing the grass to keep it from dying. The San Diego County Air Pollution Control Board fined Stuck in the Rough and former course operator, Touchstone Golf, $100,000. The fine was paid with Stuck in the Rough (SITR) calling it a donation and nor admitting any liability.
The new agreement that will be posted publicly Thursday reportedly says the company will withdraw its 2015 application for 270 homes on the property. It can be seen here.
“While SITR retains ownership of the property, another developer will act as the lead representative on any future development application for the former Country Club property and to accept proposals for development from the surrounding community,” Jeffrey Epp said on behalf of the city of Escondido.
“SITR has presently identified three potential developers for the property. The City will process any application in accordance with CEQA, the Planning and Zoning Law, the Subdivision Map Act, and any other applicable laws,” Epp said.
SITR also issued a statement through publicist Dick Daniels. By agreeing to affirm the March 13 Superior Court ruling that restored the residential zoning of our property, the City Council has protected taxpayers from the soaring legal costs of continued litigation,: he said.
“As part of the agreement, SITR is dismissing all remaining causes of action in the law suit, thereby eliminating additional legal and financial liability costs to the City that would easily exceed $2 million,” Daniels said. “SITR also has agreed to withdraw its land plan application for the property in order to clear the way for a highly reputable home builder who will be announced soon to re-submit a plan at a later date.”
Daniels said future plans had pared down the proposed number of homes to 600. It represented “a fresh start for the home builder, surrounding neighbors and City to come together and focus on the optimal use for this property,” Daniels said.
SITR assumed ownership of the golf course and country club in 2012, and within months shut both down, announcing intentions to build several hundred high-end homes on the 110-acre site.
Michael Schlesinger representing SITR sent letters ordering them to remove walls and shrubs that were encroaching on the course. The City Council in 2013 sided with the homeowners and declared the golf course to be open space.
Then came the dumping of the chicken manure.
A measure sponsored by Schlesinger on the November 2014 ballot was defeated 61% to 39%. Outspent by more than 10 to 1, the measure’s opponents called Schlesinger a “Beverly Hills bully” and stressed the chicken manure incident.
The SITR lawsuit asserts that the council committed a “taking” of the property’s value. This spring a judge agreed.