An $11.5-million land deal approved by the Escondido City Council signals an end to a long boundary war between the North County community and its neighbor to the south, San Diego.
The San Diego City Council is scheduled to approve the agreement Monday.
The sale of the property on the northern shore of Lake Hodges by San Diego to Escondido will result in construction of a 120-acre public golf course and will give an Escondido developer the right to build 580 houses nearby.
Escondido Councilman Jerry Harmon, the lone council vote Wednesday night against the proposal, vowed Thursday to attempt to scuttle the agreement, terming it "a sweetheart deal" that threatens to rob taxpayers of the best return on their tax dollars.
Under the agreement, Escondido would purchase two parcels of land near the North County Fair shopping center from San Diego, then resell the property to a private developer.
Harmon charged that the developer, Jack Raymond, will receive the land and the development rights without competitive bidding, "which means that there will be no way to determine if the taxpayer is getting a fair deal."
Harmon asked Escondido City Atty. David Chapman about the possibility of a referendum petition campaign to prevent the land swap between the two cities, but Chapman said the City Council resolution is not subject to the referendum process. However, Harmon said, further action by the Escondido council must include an ordinance granting development rights to Raymond, which would be subject to a referendum petition drive.
"Unfortunately, that may be too late," Harmon admitted. "If the housing pads are already graded, the question of competitive bidding on the land would be moot."
The land, owned by the San Diego City Utilities Department but within the Escondido city limits, includes 159 acres east of Interstate 15 on which the golf course would be built and 117 acres west of the freeway, where Raymond would build his residential subdivision.
According to Harmon, the housing development would be double the density designated for the site because development rights from the golf course property would be transferred to the westerly site.
The Escondido councilman opposes the agreement because "without competitive bidding, we cannot know what the actual value of that property is and what increased benefits we might be receiving from some other developer if this land were put on the open market."
Harmon also said Escondido City Council members were reneging on a pledge made to voters when the North County Fair shopping center was approved in 1979 that no further commercial development would be allowed in the area. Part of the present two-city agreement provides that Escondido will "consider" commercial zoning on a seven-acre parcel of land west of the freeway and next to the shopping center.
Escondido Mayor Jim Rady, in a letter to San Diego Mayor Maureen O'Connor dated Sept. 1, assured O'Connor that the seven-acre parcel "would be retained by San Diego with special zoning granted by Escondido to allow for commercial development."
"I think the city is not keeping faith with the voters when we say that we will give consideration to commercial zoning in the area," Harmon said, pointing out that the zoning for that small parcel "will set a precedent that will be hard to break."
Opposition to the land sale and the development is expected Monday from San Diego Councilwoman Abbe Wolfsheimer, who wants the proposal held in abeyance until plans are completed for development of a 43-mile-long linear park along the San Dieguito River, including the Lake Hodges area.