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Escondido country club housing project gets council approval

ESCONDIDO, Calif. -- A proposed housing development in Escondido has neighbor pitted against neighbor.

Following five hours of public testimony and before an overflow crowd, Escondido City Council approved Wednesday “The Villages” housing development by a 3-2 vote.

The development is to be built on the 109 acres of the abandoned Escondido Country Club.

Residents lined up for hours to speak before the council over the developer's, New Urban West, plans to build 380 homes on the property owned by Michael Schlesinger, a Beverly Hills businessman who bought the country club in 2012 and soon after shuttered and fenced it in.

Against the plan were Mayor Sam Abed and Deputy Mayor John Masson.

Both men said they felt 380 units was too dense for the area and would create too much traffic. Masson said a bunch of two-story buildings would be jammed onto a golf course surrounded by one-story older homes.

“The community will look like a sea of garages,” he said.

Later this month, the Escondido Country Club Homeowner’s Organization, comprised of more than 300 property owners in the country club neighborhood, will meet to decide how to proceed. Options include filing a lawsuit challenging the decision or pursuing a referendum that would ask city voters next year to overturn the council’s vote, said ECCHO president Mike Slater.