Golf Course Closed After Poway Voters Reject Country Club Development
Wednesday, November 8, 2017
Photo by Matthew Bowler
A proposed development at the StoneRidge Country Club was rejected by Poway voters. As soon as the results were posted, the owner, Michael Schlesinger of Western Golf Properties, shut down the course.
UPDATE: 5:44 .m., Nov. 8, 2017.
A proposed development at the StoneRidge Country Club was rejected by Poway voters.
Measure A was defeated 62 percent to 38 percent, according to unofficial figures released by the San Diego County Registrar of Voters.
The proposal on Tuesday's ballot would have amended the city's general plan to rezone part of the country club from an "open space- recreation" designation to allow for development.
That could have cleared the way later for the development of up to 180 luxury condominiums for residents over 55 years old. The specifics of the project would have been decided by the City Council.
Supporters contended the measure would have protected open space and an 18-hole golf course while providing a new 10,000-square-foot clubhouse open to the public.
As soon as the results were posted, the owner, Michael Schlesinger of Western Golf Properties, shut down the course. Wednesday morning a handwritten sign posted at the entrance of the Stoneridge Country Club said “Goodbye Poway, it was a great 60 years.” Employees were already loading boxes into trunks and preparations were being made to lock the front gates.
Schlesigner issued a statement Wednesday saying it was a sad day:
“Unfortunately, the people of Poway have decided to permanently seal its fate. This is now out of our hands. When the City and community appears with a viable solution, we will listen. Until then, the entire facility will be locked up and fenced for the foreseeable future, the golf course will vanish, and the City will suffer economic and property value loss from this black hole in the community."
Campaigning mostly via social media, opponents said the golf course owner should not be trusted, based on his track record in other cities.
Brian Edmonston is a spokesman for the No on A campaign
“I think everyone was the loser here,” Edmonston said, “but we all lost the day that Michael Schlesinger bought this course. It was doomed from the minute he purchased the bank note.”
Schlesinger has bought several golf courses around Southern California, including the Escondido Country Club, which he also closed, saying it was no longer viable.
Edmonston said the situation in Poway is different, since the Escondido course was not zoned as open space, while Stoneridge is.
“He wants to hold Poway hostage and change the zoning, but we’re not interested in that, as demonstrated by the vote last night," Edmonston said.
Mitch Steller, with Poway Open Space, the group that negotiated the plan that formed the basis of Measure A, said he was disappointed in the result.
“I thought we were going to win,” he said.
He said he warned neighbors that Schlesinger would likely close down the course if the measure failed, creating potential blight in the neighborhood.
“I lost 10 percent of my property value last night, or maybe 20 percent,” he said.
Stetller said he found it hard to imagine anyone negotiating a better deal than the one included in Measure A, which allowed the city to keep an 18-hole golf course and gain 180 luxury condos for seniors.
Edmonston said he hoped the city might work with residents to purchase the property under eminent domain.
Poway Mayor Steve Vaus said that idea is unrealistic. He said the city had looked at the possibility of running the course and decided it does not want to be in the golf course business.
Vaus said that there are many "empty nesters” with large homes in Poway and there is a need for options such as were proposed by the plan negotiated in the Measure A.
“But it’s got to be done right,” Vaus said. “And done with the blessing of the community.”
Vaus said he was not surprised by the outcome.
“Regardless of the merits of the project,” he said, “when the proponent is someone that chooses to use, what I think the community would describe as strong-arm tactics, that’s not going to play well in a community like Poway.”
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