"Thirty-, 40-year-old friendships have dissolved over this"

25700053.jpgHector Becerra in the LA Times looks at the possible precedent-setting situation with Glendora Country Club, where a developer made a land swap deal with club members and then took approval of a prospective club move to a special election.

But some land-use experts say the situation in Glendora is unusual because the developer, NJD Ltd., is proposing radical planning changes to the upscale suburb — moving a landmark country club, building a new golf course and creating a new community — through a ballot measure carefully crafted by a developer rather than city planners.

"That's extremely clever and creative," said Paul Shigley, editor of the Ventura-based California Planning and Development Report. "I have never heard of a land swap like that. That's very novel."

The developer has raised eyebrows by offering $10 Ralphs gift cards to residents who vote in the special election. City officials questioned the propriety of it.

But a consultant for NJD — whose owners live in Colorado and California — said they have had to mount an aggressive campaign because the city has placed numerous roadblocks.
Opponents have waved signs along streets and charged that the measure would ruin the neighborhood around the 100-acre country club and scar the picturesque hillside.

The developer owns about 400 acres in the hills above Glendora and nearby San Dimas. But it has struggled to build houses on the land because of tough zoning restrictions.

"They have always known what our rules were, but they didn't like the rules," said City Manager Eric Ziegler. "So their proposition is for the 50,000 residents of Glendora to change their rules so they could meet their profit margin."

Mayor Doug Tessitor said passage of the initiative would result in a loss of local control.

"They've concocted an initiative which completely negates our hillside ordinance, all our zoning codes and our building standards," he said. "It basically gives them a blank check."

But Davis said the measure would actually protect the hillside because it would mean building a golf course on about half of the 400 acres rather than more invasive homes. He said the country club and golf course would be integrated as much as possible in the foothills' natural terrain, adding that one way or another, homes will be built somewhere.

"They try to make it sound like we're going to go up there and flatten hills and drop a golf course on top," Davis said. "We're going to build into the terrain. It's not going to be green fairways the whole way."

The idea of the land swap first surfaced early last year, said Terry Beal, president of the Glendora Country Club. Beal said the idea of having a new country club and golf course to replace a facility dating to 1955 was attractive.

Earlier this year, most of the club's 455 equity members voted on the proposal, Beal said. Sixty-one percent voted to support the plan.

"It was a big mandate to move forward," Beal said. "We'd get a new facility for nothing. It's a good deal."

Beal complained that city officials have sent letters implying that the city would try to seize the land.

Ziegler said eminent domain was not considered but that the City Council did call for an appraisal of the country club in order to study whether the property could be purchased. But the city does not have the money, he said.

Dennis Winn, a longtime Glendora resident and club member, said the issue has split friendships in the community and at the country club.

"Thirty-, 40-year-old friendships have dissolved over this," he said. "Families stopped talking over this. It's really a shame that it has divided not only the club but the city."