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Escondido County Club Controversy Turns Offensive With Fowl Odor

The Air Pollution Control District is threatening to impose fines of tens of thousands of dollars on the company that owns the former Escondido Country Club. The crime? Dumping tons of chicken manure that is creating a public nuisance by sending noxious smells from the golf course wafting over to nearby homes.

The course closed last year, soon after it was bought by a developer, who is now lobbying to build more than 400 homes on the property.

Neighboring residents, who put up stiff opposition to the plan, suspect the fierce odors emanating from the manure is retribution.

Bob Kard of the Air Pollution Control District said his inspectors have used basic tools — their noses — to confirm this public nuisance is a punishable offense.

“We think it was done knowingly, but we’re still investigating," Kard said. "We’ve noticed that the golf courses have not been watered in a year or more, nor were the golf course greens even growing for that matter, so we’re not sure why they did it.”

Kard said while agricultural operations have some leeway with noxious smells, a golf course is not protected from fines under state law. He said a "knowing" violation has a maximum penalty of $40,000 per day under state law, while a "willful and intentional" violation could result in a $75,000 per day maximum fine. The penalties assessed will depend on the outcome of the Air Quality Control District's investigation.

The company has said the manure was part of maintaining the course, but that it has now removed the odorous material.

The name adopted by the current owner of the country club when he bought it two years ago offers a clue to his intention. “Stuck in the Rough” suggests developer Michael Schlesinger had doubts about the future of the golf club from the beginning. He closed it in 2012, saying it was no longer financially viable.

Since then a legal battle has been shaping up between Schlesinger and the city of Escondido, which supports residents’ claims that the land was designated as open space.

Efforts to reach a compromise have failed, and Schlesinger has begun a campaign to gain public support for an initiative that would allow him to build 430 homes on the 110-acre property.

Schlesinger's campaign to engage citizens of the whole city involves a sweeter smelling strategy than the one he has employed to engage residents living around the golf course.

In a full page ad in the U-T San Diego newspaper, Schlesinger wrote that 430 is fewer homes than the 600 he believes the land was zoned for when he bought it. However, it is still more than the plan for 238 homes he submitted to the city last summer.

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