Photo by Karen Pearlman/San Diego Union-Tribune
Michael Schlesinger, a developer who bought the El Cajon, Calif. property in 2015 after it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection four years earlier, has applied for approval of a three-phase, 10-year project that could potentially yield $40 million. But local residents have organized to fight the plan, citing concerns about noise, traffic, pollution, and the potential to decrease property values. The construction boom has made concrete, of which sand is a component, an increasingly valuable and scarce commodity.
The owners of the Cottonwood Golf Club in El Cajon, Calif. have filed an application with San Diego (Calif.) County to convert the property into a sand mine, KGTV ABC 10 of San Diego reported.
Details were revealed at a planning group meeting for the Valle del Oro community earlier this month, KGTV reported.
The proposal calls for a three-phase mining operation over 10 years, with the first phase taking place on the 18-hole Lakes Course, which has already been closed to golfers. Cottonwood GC also has an 18-hole Ivanhoe Course that is still open for play and is the home course for the girls’ golf teams of several area high school.
Sand is needed as a component of concrete, which has become scarcer during the construction boom of the past decade, KGTV reported. The proposed mine would produce a maximum of 570,000 tons a year, creating an estimated 170 round trips by heavy trucks every day from the site.
The property is owned by Beverly Hills real estate agent Michael Schlesinger, who also owns the shuttered golf courses at Stoneridge Country Club in Poway, Calif. and Escondido (Calif.) Country Club, KGTV reported.
Nearby residents have already created an opposition group called “Stop Cottonwood Sand Mine,” KGTV reported, and Barry Jantz, one of the organizers, has argued that a sand mine is not compatible with the neighborhood.
“The character of the neighborhood would be impacted,” said Jantz.
More specifically, he says, those in the neighborhood are worried about the noise and traffic from the trucks, as well as pollution, environmental impacts and the potential to decrease property values.
The group was scheduled to hold a meeting about the issue on Wednesday night, November 27th.
EnviroMINE, a mining and environmental consulting firm hired by Schlesinger said the full project, which would be conducted in three phases over 158 acres, could potentially bring the owners up to $40 million, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
If the sand mining plan makes it through the county approval process with minimal changes, grading could begin as soon as 2020, Warren Coalson, president of EnviroMINE, told The Union-Tribune.
Cottonwood filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in federal bankruptcy court in 2011, The Union-Tribune reported, and Schlesinger bought the property in 2015.
Post-mining plans filed by Schlesinger’s Cottonwood Cajon ES, LLC, , which will need a separate OK from the country Board of Supervisors, show open space, recreational trails and land suitable for development, The Union-Tribune reported.
Local residents protesting the plan cited concerns of safety for students walking and biking to and from a nearby elementary school and high school, and have also said they are worried about the biological impact, utility issues, noise pollution and other health effects, property values and the aesthetics of the environment, The Union-Tribune reported.
In 2016, Schlesinger brought in Western Golf Properties to manage The Lakes and Ivanhoe golf courses at the club, then soon after closed The Lakes, The Union-Tribune reported. Three of the site’s eight lakes still have water, but much of the course is now just dirt and trees.
Coalson of EnviroMINE told The Union-Tribune that after the 158-acre grading, about 122 acres would be reclaimed by grading and revegetation along the former golf course areas.
The state of California has officially identified and recognized the area, classifying it as a regionally significant aggregate resource, Coalson added.
A special report by the California Department of Conservation, the 2017 California Geological Survey, included the Cottonwood area as one of nine “new [yet, undesignated] aggregate resource Sectors for PCC-grade aggregate,” The Union-Tribune reported.
PCC is Portland cement concrete, considered the scarcest and most valuable of aggregate resources, the report said.
“It’s important for the local economy,” Coalson told The Union-Tribune. “Aggregate is the cornerstone of the economy.”
The project will have to be vetted several times along the way, The Union-Tribune reported, first to meet local and state environmental standards and requirements, then heading to the San Diego County Planning and Development Services, the Planning Commission and then the Board of Supervisors.
Coalson said he hopes those living in the area “turn the volume down and listen,” The Union-Tribune reported.
“We want to work with them,” he said. “Currently, there are no pedestrian trails. Perhaps we can put some in or re-route a bikeway lane through our project… things like that.
“And when we’re done we can put in a much better habitat than what’s there now with the golf course.”
To see a video report by San Diego’s KGTV NBC 10 on the proposal and neighborhood reaction, go to https://www.10news.com/news/owner-of-cottonwood-golf-club-in-el-cajon-wants-to-turn-it-into-a-sand-mine