Richard Sheeders was told his garden extended onto former golf-course property by about a foot.
  • Richard Sheeders was told his garden extended onto former golf-course property by about a foot.
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Since the Escondido City Council passed the citizen-generated initiative on August 14, 2013, preventing development of the former Escondido Country Club property, the land-use battle moved into the court system for final resolution. But in the meantime...

In early October, in response to minor vandalism damage to the former clubhouse area and numerous perceived trespassing infractions, property owner Stuck in the Rough erected a six-foot-tall chain-link fence around the perimeter of the 110-acre property.

Around the same time the fence was being constructed, Stuck in the Rough commissioned an engineering survey to exactly define the property’s boundaries. The survey results allegedly found that numerous homeowners had walls or landscaping that encroached onto former golf-course property.

The company then sent letters through their attorney to about 64 residents who had property adjacent to its property, threatening legal action if the encroachments were not removed within one week of the date of the letter.

In the letter, the company threatened to cloud the titles of homeowners, possibly preventing sale of their home, if not immediately removed. The deadline given to homeowners was in some cases before they received the letter.

Many of the encroachments were small borders or walls that allegedly encroached only a few inches or a few feet. Richard Sheeders, a 93-year-old WWII vet, was told that his four-inch-wide embedded concrete garden divider extended onto the company's property by about a foot.

“Many years ago, I asked the country club if I could place the divider there,” said Sheeders. “They said they had no problem and that it wasn’t on golf-course property, so I put it in. After I got the recent letter from the lawyers, I had it taken out,” he stated.

Jacqueline Vinaccia, a partner of Lounsbery Ferguson Altona & Peak, LLP, represents several homeowners in this encroachment action. She stated that Stuck in the Rough recently engaged the law office of Ronald Richards (located in Beverly Hills, where Stuck in the Rough is based) to pursue the property-encroachment remedies.

The detailed biography on Richards’s website claimed that in 1999 Richards successfully defended numerous date-rape and drug cases. “In 2010, Mr. Richards started off the year getting dismissed major felonies such as kidnapping for extortion and attempted murder, both through legal arguments, and large amounts of narcotics through legal arguments and suppression motions. In 2011 he resolved a major 43 Kg cocaine case with $2,000,000 in currency for two Canadian nationals, for less than two years.”

In civil cases, “Mr. Richards handles specialized matters for business clients who want an experienced attorney with a no holds barred litigation style that achieves resolution of the problem facing the civil client.”

Some homeowners are going to remove the offending bushes, walls, or shrubs. Others, like Bob Fawley, whose wall allegedly encroaches three inches, will fight to keep their property boundaries as they have existed for the past 40 years.

“All the encroachments are similar,” Fawley says. “They built their little walls that stick over a bit, but nobody has cared for 40 or 50 years. But now [Stuck in the Rough is] making a big deal out of it for no reason at all. If I had to take this down and move it three inches, it would be a $15,000 job, and [the company] would gain nothing — it’s crazy.”

Calls to Stuck in the Rough principal Michael Schlesinger and his spokesperson were not returned.

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Comments

Visduh Oct. 27, 2013 @ 10:04 a.m.

So, let's get this straight. Stuck in the Rough (henceforth "Stuck") is complaining of a financial hardship in owning the golf course. But in response to "trespassing" and vandalism (probably graffiti) it now fences the ENTIRE property right to the property lines (as determined by their "survey".) How much did that cost? Plenty, I'd guess. And to what avail? Is someone walking on the unmaintained course doing any harm? Fencing the clubhouse would be a reasonable step, and would have been a simple and cheap expedient toward keeping it secure. If anyone had any doubts in regard to this operation, they should be laid to rest now.

What was not mentioned about these encroachments is that Stuck, about a week ago, ran a full page ad in the Mill (aka UT) bewailing the encroachments and accusing several of the homeowners that are leaders of the group opposing Stuck and their plans, of having them. The ad was carefully worded to avoid libel, but it insinuated that supporters of the homeowner group might want to examine the motives of those leaders. I'd say they further insinuated that those encroachments were a really big deal. As I suspected at the time, nobody was getting away with anything significant, and the encroachments were generally insignificant.

I'd go even farther to suggest that when such homes were built fronting on a golf course, the idea was that the yards of the homes would just blend right in to the course with no obvious delineation, and that the club ownership of the time cared not a whit about such things. Now Stuck is using this fence to intimidate the homeowners, hiring an attack-dog lawyer to put muscle on them.

While I don't claim much legal expertise, I have for many years heard of a legal doctrine called "hostile and flagrant occupancy" which recognizes that if one person is using and/or occupying the property of another for a long time and without trying to hide it, he gains the rights to the property, in effect making it his own. In this case, if that old common law applies here, Stuck has no right to complain, nor to put the fence where those encroachments are located. Is some attorney able to further explore that idea?

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Michael Mullenniex Oct. 27, 2013 @ 3:58 p.m.

Visduh - I think you really hit the nail on the head in your third paragraph. Since all the land use issues will be decided in the courts, it's totally gratuitous to harass the local home owners in some twisted sense of fun.

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Bob_Hudson Oct. 28, 2013 @ 10:45 a.m.

"I have for many years heard of a legal doctrine called "hostile and flagrant occupancy" which recognizes that if one person is using and/or occupying the property of another for a long time and without trying to hide it, he gains the rights to the property… Stuck has no right to complain, nor to put the fence where those encroachments are located. Is some attorney able to further explore that idea?"

The whole purpose of "Stuck" going to court is to get an impartial decision. They have every right to file a legal complaint and I'm sure their attorney knows that in some instances what they thought was theirs may no longer be theirs after if goes to court.

As for, "Since all the land use issues will be decided in the courts, it's totally gratuitous to harass the local home owners..." the way it gets to the courts is for each side to file complaints on the issues they feel need to be adjudicated. Each side in a dispute has the right to find their own attorneys who are able to further explore" the issues and then present them to a judge or jury to decide who is right.

What I am surprised is that the residents have not yet formed a group to try to buy the golf course, instead of just spending money on legal actions that in the end will not gain them rights to control property which is clearly not theirs, i.e. most of the golf course.

The chain link fence and brown ex-golf course have already had a major impact on property values, but their attorneys probably have not advised them there's little if any precedent in the law for a court to order the golf course reopened, the sprinklers turned back on and the maintenance crews rehired. But, there's less money to be made for the attorneys by advising a sensible course, as opposed to the hourly fees that will accumulate in a long dragged-out court fight to try to gain control of property they don't own and are unwilling to purchase. At the end of the day, the only guaranteed winners are the lawyers.

San Diego County is over-built with golf courses and I suspect this kind of land use issue will crop up elsewhere. In the far eastern part of the county we already have the once notable Rams Hills Golf Course in Borrego Springs sitting brown and decaying.

I don't expect though that residents would try to buy the Stuck property as the vast majority could not even be bothered to become residents of the country club they now feel is essential to their home's value. I don’t blame them, as golf courses have fallen on hard times and closed throughout the country: if the residents tried to borrow money to buy the course, the lenders would advise on why it's a bad investment.

Meanwhile I’m going to retain the homeowner's attorneys. When I look out my window there’s a fabulous vista of an undeveloped hillside. I don't know who owns it, but they should not have the right to build on it since that would harm my view and maybe make my house worth less than it is with a great view.

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Visduh Oct. 28, 2013 @ 4:24 p.m.

You are overlooking the fact that the homeowners were willing to consider a redevelopment plan that didn't fill the entire course property with homes, and retained a small nine-hole course. Stuck was having none of it, and wants to, despite the property having been zoned for a golf course and only a golf course, develop the whole thing. The city has to make a decision about the land use, and would rather walk away from the whole thing. Or in other words, the mayor, mealy-mouth Sam and most of the council, want to wash their hands of the matter. The homeowners insist the city to enforce the zoning and conditional use permits that were granted back in the 60's.

If Stuck wanted to compromise It could. But instead, while claiming to be losing their shirts on the property, Stuck puts up a fence, hires an expensive lawyer to send bullying notices to the homeowners, and finds the money to pay for a weird full-page ad in the UT. Sorry, somethings don't add up here, and Stuck doth protest too much.

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countrybumpkin Nov. 2, 2013 @ 5:18 p.m.

Mr. Hudson is either out of the loop, misinformed, or, one of STIR's investors!

"What I am surprised is that the residents have not yet formed a group to try to buy the golf course, instead of just spending money on legal actions that in the end will not gain them rights to control property which is clearly not theirs, i.e. most of the golf course."

A Group was formed a year ago, offers presented and refused. The course was always meant to be a dedicated open space, check the Master Plans in 1973. We are dealing with an "out-of-towner" who thought he could bully a bunch of seniors and profit from it. He failed to forget that the forgotten generation was a lot smarter than he thought! Only a sycophant would take joy in torturing seniors and stealing their nest eggs. Your defense of this man is reprehensible and suspect.

Read more: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2013/oct/27/stringers-land-owner-stuck-rough-ill-will/?login#ixzz2jXJRmEnN

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Visduh Nov. 11, 2013 @ 4:11 p.m.

Here it is Veterans Day, and I'm waiting for Mullenniex to make a posting about the double-truck color ad that appeared in the Mill (sometimes known as the UT) yesterday. It was full of threatening language about the possibility of Escondido losing a claim by the owners of the course, if the initiative passes. You have to see this "Paid Political Advertisement" to believe it, because the language is so nuanced. The real puzzle is that the identity of the person/company/group that placed the ad doesn't appear anywhere. (I thought that was a requirement, silly me.)

While I'm sure that it will alarm many residents of Escondido and result in many phone calls to the city council members--which was what it is intended to provoke, I wonder if it isn't just going to turn off at least as many others who don't like the tone of it, or the implications, or the fact that whoever paid for the ad won't 'fess up to it. If Stuck is in such dire straits with that course, how do they afford to pay for two full pages (and the gutter between them) all in color? If Stuck didn't buy the ad, who the heck did?

And the joke could be on Stuck. Since the NCT was folded into the Mill, the paid circulation of the paper isn't much larger than it was before, meaning that many, many former NCT readers just don't get a paper any more. And if few Escondidoans read the ad, it is wasted.

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jnojr Nov. 11, 2013 @ 6:28 p.m.

Anyone who doesn't approve of the use SITR wants to put their property to is free to make an offer.

Sorry, but all of these "promises" were made decades ago by people who do not own the property today. Golf courses are rarely profitable any more, but the land still represents a huge investment.

The people who live there should be putting their money where their mouths are and offering to buy the land. But that isn't what they want at all... they want someone else to pay the price (read: the taxpayer, because who else is going to cave in to them?) and let them decide how the land is going to be used.

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Visduh Nov. 11, 2013 @ 8:48 p.m.

"Property" rights have been subject to restriction in the Anglo-Saxon system for hundreds of years. You have "property" to the degree that your neighbors and the various levels of government allow its use. So, jno, would you be OK if Stuck wanted to dig a huge open pit mine where that course is now? Hey, if the "use SITR wants to put their property" is something like that, by your rules, they can do just that.

It doesn't work that way, and I think you know it. That property was turned from ranchland into a fancy golf-course community, and the developers probably got very rich selling lots on the course to folks who thought such a thing was great. Yes, times have changed, but just because a golf course is in less demand now, and the operators are struggling to make a profit or avoid a loss, the original regulations don't just go out the window. There may be a better use for the course, but Stuck doesn't have total free rein to determine what that is. The others in the equation, "stakeholders" if you will, have some say-so. In fact, that fence that Stuck recently put in place can be seen as "taking" from the homeowners the ambience and view that was part of their property, i.e. rights. The value of those homes and homesites is largely determined by the visual condition of the course. The fact that Stuck has stopped watering the landscaping can be seen as a violation of contract. Oh, the list goes on. And, jnojr, I think that you know that, too. This is a far more complex issue than you and any/all other sock puppets for Stuck are admitting. But, again, I"m certain that you know that. Stuck knows it, too.

That ballot measure is not going to bankrupt Escondido. But this unwise campaign by Stuck might just cause it to end up bankrupt.

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