Michael Schlesinger, owner of the Poway, Calif., property, is polling residents to determine if they would be interested in allowing development of part of the club property in exchange for gifting the golf course and other amenities to the city. Schlesinger purchased the property in 2013, and has been trying to sell it for more than a year without success.
The owner of StoneRidge Country Club in Poway, Calif., is polling city residents to gauge community interest in allowing him to develop part of the property in exchange for gifting the golf course and perhaps other amenities to the city, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
The club’s owner, Michael Schlesinger, bought the floundering Escondido (Calif.) Country Club four years ago and shuttered its golf course with a plan to build new homes there. A bitter battle ensued that included dueling ballot measures and lawsuits, the Union-Tribune reported.
Schlesinger hasn’t specifically said he wants to close the StoneRidge course, but hundreds of residents who own homes that line the fairways, holes and tees are worried. Last week, many received phone calls from a pollster asking how they would feel if part of the property was developed while a majority of the land is given to the city for the possible operation of a nine-hole golf course or for park land, the Union-Tribune reported.
Under Poway’s zoning laws, the property couldn’t be developed unless a majority of voters approved a plan, the Union-Tribune reported.
Schlesinger could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but he sent an email to the city last week explaining what was going on: “The current StoneRidge ownership is committed to retaining a golf course on the site. Unfortunately, the reality is that this membership-based course and its clubhouse amenities are no longer viable operations, as currently structured. This situation requires research to be conducted to understand all sustainable options for the site.”
The StoneRidge course has been in operation since 1962. Schlesinger purchased the property in 2013 after it fell into foreclosure, and has been trying to sell it for more than a year without success, the Union-Tribune reported.
In early 2015, the city commissioned a study to see if it might make sense for Poway to buy the property and operate a municipal golf course. The study was redacted to omit most monetary figures and projections, but it stated that golf courses all over North County are struggling, in part because there are too many and the market is saturated. There are also fewer golfers and little indication that demand will return to past levels, the Union-Tribune reported.
Poway Assistant City Manager Tina White said it’s unknown if the City Council would consider buying or taking possession of all or part of the StoneRidge course. She said Schlesinger has said the lukewarm golfing market and the cost of watering the 120-acre site has made the course unprofitable, even though memberships increased after he bought the property and hired a professional golf course management company to run it, the Union-Tribune reported.
The city report and local golfers say maintenance of the course and other amenities has been spotty the past two years and everything needs to be upgraded, the Union-Tribune reported.
Any development plan would require a public vote under the provisions of Proposition FF, approved by voters in 1988 to contain urban sprawl. Getting voters to back a project would probably depend on the support of the City Council, the Union-Tribune reported.
“We can’t accept a gift and then say ‘OK, you give us this and then you can build.’” Mayor Steve Vaus said. “The building is a separate question entirely for the voters to decide.”
He said the council would have to seriously consider the costs associated with owning and maintaining the property, the Union-Tribune reported.
“It’s like you go to the grocery store on Sunday morning and somebody is there with free kittens. The kittens might be cute but there’s a lot of responsibilities that go with them,” Vaus said.
Still, the possibility of acquiring 100 acres of open space shouldn’t be ignored, he said.
Schlesinger’s Escondido course remains closed and overgrown today, though a court has confirmed his right to develop the land. A new builder is exploring the possibility of buying the land from Schlesinger and constructing homes there, the Union-Tribune reported.