A future together, with or without StoneRidge
Regardless of the outcome of the Measure A/StoneRidge special election, many important questions remain and new ones will arise – all of which MUST be addressed by the property owner and the City as the fate of this 117-acre property moves forward.
It was disheartening to see this ballot measure become a highly divisive issue among neighbors and fellow Powegians during the campaign. Whether Measure A passes or fails, we are still ONE community. The GVCA will advocate hard with City staff, City Council, and the property owner on behalf of GVCA members and Poway residents for property use that will have the least impact and most benefit for our community.
We encourage everyone to come together as one to ensure that Poway is, and always will be, a desirable place to live.
As the fate of the 117-acre StoneRidge Country Club property lies in voters hands this November when they cast a vote for or against Measure A, the ultimate question Powegians will be asking themselves is: “What is best for the community?”
Question that will appear on the November 7th ballot
Vital to answering that question is a complete understanding of the facts, the pros, cons and risks of the passage or failure of Measure A, the initiative that seeks voter approval to change the land use zoning of the StoneRidge property to allow for residential condominium units for residents over the age of 55.
Regardless of the outcome of Measure A, it will have long-term implications for the community beyond even those that may impact you directly.
It is clear that this is a divisive issue for voters, particularly residents who live closest to the StoneRidge property. The GVCA has heard from many members and north Poway homeowners on this ballot initiative. Many are vehemently opposed to any rezoning/redevelopment of this property and others would much rather see a portion of the property developed in order to avoid unmaintained open space and blighted golf course.
As a community civic organization serving 3,300 homeowners in north Poway, the GVCA seeks to bring an unbiased, fact-based assessment of Measure A to help voters set aside emotion and make an informed decision.
How did we get here?
In 2013, No Stone Left Unturned, LLC (NSLU), purchased the property out of bankruptcy. In June 2015, owner Michael Schlesinger, listed the property for sale. There were reportedly several offers made, but none accepted. Since the spring of 2016, the owner began exploring ways to redevelop the property, including having the City operate it as a municipal course.
Poway Open Space, Inc. (POS), a group comprised mainly of StoneRidge men’s golf members, formed in 2016 and began discussions with Michael Schlesinger’s PR firm, Roni Hicks, to maintain a pro course by allowing some housing development. POS led the initiative effort and filed the documents to be placed on a special ballot which has been paid for by NSLU.
What does Measure A say?
The Measure A Ballot Title is stated as:
AN INITIATIVE TO AMEND THE CITY OF POWAY GENERAL PLAN TO ADD THE STONERIDGE OVERLAY ZONE, AND TO AMEND THE ZONING AND GENERAL PLAN LAND USE MAP OF THE CITY OF POWAY TO REDESIGNATE A PORTION OF THE STONERIDGE COUNTRY CLUB FROM OPEN SPACE-RECREATION TO RESIDENTIAL CONDOMINIUM WITH THE STONERIDGE OVERLAY ZONE
A private agreement
On August 14, 2017, Poway Open Space and No Stone Left Unturned signed a document titled StoneRidge Redevelopment Agreement. This private agreement between the two entities lays out specific elements of a redevelopment plan not included in the Measure. For example, Item number 4 of this agreement states:
“Upon completion of construction of the new development, NSLU shall record a Deed Restriction on the acreage not associated with the new housing development, estimated to be approximately 92 acres, to ensure it is permanent, protected open space.”
The agreement also itemizes a new community clubhouse, refurbished golf course, and an arrangement for discounts for StoneRidge tennis members to join Rancho Arbolitos Swim and Tennis. This agreenment would be recorded with the land as a public document and implemented upon passage of Measure A. According to the City of Poway, because this is a private agreement, "the City of Poway is not in a position to enforce the agreement".
Questions remain about this agreement, including the details and timing of the Deed Restriction, its enforceability, and the two parties adhering to all items of the agreement.
What your vote means
A “Yes” vote approves a land use change for a portion of the property to allow for housing development. A “No” vote denies this rezoning change.
Voters are NOT voting on any specifics of the housing development. Drawings presented to the community up to this point are purely conceptual.
If the measure passes, City Council, with the recommendation of City Staff and input from the public, would have final say on aspects of a redevelopment plan proposed by the developer/property owner. This includes, but is not limited to, location, height, architectural style and number of housing units, as well as ancillary elements of the plan. Approval of any plan would require a majority vote by the sitting City Council.
A housing development such as this can take years to work its way through the planning and approval process. If the measure passes, it is likely that the sitting City Council approving the development plan would be comprised of different council members than those serving today.
Top Community Concern
Whether Measure A passes or fails, could the property be developed with high-density, multi-family and single family affordable housing using State of California affordable housing mandates? This is a debated topic without a clear cut answer at this time. An overarching consideration is that State of California lawmakers are passing legislation to address the state's housing shortage (15 signed into law by Governor Brown in September 2017), including the recently passed SB 35 (see Fact Sheet and SB35 Bill Text). These laws do not necessarily allow the State carte blanche control and the property must meet certain qualifications to qualify. However, it's likely the state will continue to hand down mandates to cities dictating how many units they need to build to meet their share of regional demand, and state lawmakers will continue to propose and pass new legislation to compel cities to meet those requirements.
The Green Valley Civic Association (“GVCA”), as a community civic organization, writes this assessment of Measure A with great responsibility to accurately represent the facts, pros & cons, and risk in an unbiased manner. Our assessment of Measure A is neither an endorsement nor opposition. The GVCA’s role is/has been to serve as a neutral conduit of vital of information to our members and north Poway residents on this issue. We continue to strive to provide complete and accurate information on the initiative and how it might impact the community in the long term so voters can make an informed decision at the ballot. Since fall of 2015, we have had information-gathering meetings with the property owner, representatives of his PR firm Roni Hicks, Poway Open Space LLC, members of the StoneRidge men’s golf group, and Swim & Tennis Club, as well as Poway City Council Members and Staff. We continue to keep a line of communication open with all groups in order to provide accurate and timely information to our members and north Poway residents.
Answers to community Questions
- If Measure "A" passes, can the remaining acres be developed in the future? According to the City of Poway city managers office, "The Measure A language is very specific in that it limits the number of units to 180 units. Regardless of what the zoning designation would allow, should the measure pass, an increase in units beyond 180 would require an additional Prop FF vote. The City Council would not have the authority to approve more than 180 units without an additional Prop FF vote." Additionally, Measure A provides in Section 2A 4 that the new StoneRidge Overlay general plan and zoning designations will "require voter approval to change them in the future."
- Whether Measure A passes or fails, could the property be developed with high-density, multi-family and single family affordable housing using State of California affordable housing mandates? This is a debated topic without a clear cut answer at this time. An overarching consideration is that State of California lawmakers are passing legislation to address the state's housing shortage (15 signed into law by Governor Brown in September 2017), including the recently passed SB 35 (seeFact Sheet and SB35 Bill Text). These laws do not necessarily allow the State carte blanche control and the property must meet certain qualifications to qualify. However, it's likely the state will continue to hand down mandates to cities dictating how many units they need to build to meet their share of regional demand, and state lawmakers will continue to propose and pass new legislation to compel cities to meet those requirements.
- How much land can be developed per Measure "A"? A maximum of 25 acres of land can be developed within the StoneRidge Overlay area of 77 acres. Measure "A" is asking Poway voters to approve General Plan and Zoning Amendments which approves a "StoneRidge Overlay" allowing for: “the preservation and enhancement of the unique character of the golf course and clubhouse' s active golf, green space, and ancillary commercial uses, and for the development of no more than 180 units of compatible residential development for residents over the age of 55, subject to state and federal law. Within the Stoneridge Overlay zone, a maximum of 25 acres can be developed for residential and ancillary/supportive uses.”
- What is Residential Condominium (RC) zoning? The zoning is defined in the City of Poway municipal code section 17.08.070 RC residential condominium. This "zone is intended as an area for the development of residential condominiums with provisions for adequate light, air, open space and landscaped areas at a maximum density of 12 units per net acre. Additional uses are permitted that are complementary to, and can exist in harmony with, a residential condominium development. (Ord. 113 § 1 (Exh. A 2.0), 1983)"
- Why is the StoneRidge Overlay rezoning 77 acres but only 25 acres is being used for development? That is a great question and the answer according to a Roni Hicks representative is that the land use attorneys drafting the Overlay said that a definitive dividing line between the proposed RC and existing OS-R zoned land is required. The chosen location allows for that identification.
- How much additional property tax revenue would the City of Poway receive? The City of Poway receives about 20% of the base property tax so assuming 180 units at $650,000 per unit multiplied by the 1% base property tax rate, the 20% portion that the City of Poway would receive is approximately $234,000 per year.
- If Measure "A" passes, is there a guarantee that the golf course will remain in operation in the future? No, it is a private business and cannot be forced to operate a golf course or other Open Space activity.
- If Measure "A" fails, could the owner bring petition another Prop FF measure to rezone the property for housing redevelopment in the future? Yes. However, the petitioner must wait two election cycles before doing so.
What about the property owner? Michael Schlesinger is the principal of No Stone Left Unturned, LLC, which owns the StoneRidge Country Club in Poway and other properties in California (operating under other business names). Here are three links from primary news sources to articles on the owner and these properties:
Voice of San Diego - Sept 20, 2017 http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/news/north-county-report-one-developer-two-big-housing-battles/
East Bay Times - Sep 23, 2016 http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2016/09/23/san-ramon-golf-course-neighbors-to-fight-plan-to-shutter-course/
San Diego Union-Tribune - Aug 2, 2017 http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/communities/north-county/sd-no-extension-escondido-20170801-story.html
- Why can’t the City or another public entity just take over StoneRidge? Some have suggested that the City require the owner to keep it a golf course, turn the property into a vineyard, public hiking and riding trails, community garden, or have the City take over the land and make it open space. SRCC is privately owned land and the owner has the right to operate or not operate the golf course and use the land as the ownership determines as long as the use complies with the City’s municipal codes.
- Why doesn't the City purchase the property operate it as a municipal golf course? According to an article published in the San Diego Union-Tribune on May 4, 2016, “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 the conclusion wasn’t encouraging. 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.”
- Why can’t the property be bought by another owner who is willing to operate it as a golf course or as another allowed use? The property owner is not interested in selling and cannot be legally compelled to do so.
- Why is this going to public vote? The City of Poway voters approved a ballot measure in 1988 known as Prop FF (Ordinance 283) which requires voter approval of any general plan amendment, zone change, subdivision, or other discretionary land use decision affection any area zoned Rural Residential or Open Space, which would increase the residential density or change the zoning designation to allow commercial or manufacturing use. A majority vote is required by City of Poway voters to approve any such change.
- Couldn’t City Council have rejected the initiative? No. The City Council is required by law to approve a valid voter initiative to be placed on the ballot.
- Are voters approving at this time the specifics of the housing development? No. City Council, with the recommendation of City Staff, would have final say on all aspects of a redevelopment plan proposed by the developer/property owner. This includes, but is not limited to, location, height, architectural style and number of housing units, as well as ancillary elements of the plan. Approval of any plan would require a majority vote by the sitting City Council.
- What about the current HOA CC&R requirement to operate the StoneRidge golf course? A Declaration of Restrictions for “Valle Verde Country Club Estates” now known as StoneRidge Country Club, requires the land to be used as a golf course until June 15, 2020. If the owner discontinues the use of the land as a golf course prior to June 2020, the owner may be exposing himself to liability. The CC&Rs are a private agreement and not enforced by the City. After June 2020, the use is limited to what is allowed under the City of Poway’s Open Space Recreation zoning and enforced by the City.
- What other uses are allowed in Open Space-Recreation (OS-R) zoning? According to the City’s Municipal Code, the OS-R zone only allows two uses by right. These are lawn bowling and par or running courses. However, the Municipal Code also provides that several other uses may be considered in OS-R zones through the discretionary approval process for conditional use permits and minor conditional use permits. Both require a public hearing and approval by the City Council. Conditional uses include: baseball fields, churches, non-motorized bicycle courses, public park, rodeo area, skateboard park, soccer park, and golf course & clubhouse.
- If the golf course closes, what are the City Code requirements to maintain the land? The land would need to be maintained in accordance with the City’s Defensible Space, Vegetation Management and Waste Accumulations regulations (Chapter 8.76) which states that the property owner has clearing responsibility limited to 100 feet away from his or her building or structure or to the property line, whichever is less, and limited to their land. If the property is found to be a public health safety threat by the accumulation of waste material that is left out in the open, such as rubbish, crates, cartons, metal and glass containers, and vehicle bodies and parts. This also provides for the abatement of accumulated waste material that has been determined to be a public nuisance.
- Was the GVCA involved in negotiating the development plan and/or the initiative process? No. The GVCA’s role is/has been to serve as an independent conduit of vital information to our members and north Poway residents on this issue. We continue to strive to provide complete and accurate information on the initiative and how it might impact the community in the long term so voters can make an informed decision at the ballot. None of our board members live in the StoneRidge community nor are members of Poway Open Space, Inc.