Closing of La Verne country club worrying neighborhood residents

LA VERNE, Calif. (KABC) -- The closing of a La Verne country club has people who live in the neighborhood worried about the future of the golf course.

For people who live on Sherwood Drive in La Verne, the neighborhood is close to perfect. It's not just because of the view of the mountains, but the quiet appeal of living on a golf course.

But Sierra La Verne Country Club will soon be closing, and the residents believe the golf course's new owner has no intention of selling, nor any interest in keeping the golf course.

"He wants to force the city into re-zoning it for houses. We already have enough houses around here," said resident Don Hutchinson.

As it stand right now, the area is zoned for open space, meaning that for the developer to build on it, there would have to be a change in the general plan. But what neighbors are worried about is the possibility that the developer would just let this place rot until he gets his way.

"We're being held for hostage, miserable can we make until I get my way, and I really feel like that's what's going to happen," said La Verne resident LaRynda Peterson.

And they feel they have good reason to worry. They point to what's happened to a golf course south of them in Chino Hills.

Vellano HOA president Mike Konrad said when the golf course in the neighborhood started to go under, it changed hands.

"It finally sold to the current owners, who unbeknownst to us at the time, were actually developers," he said.

Konrad said they are the same developers who now own Sierra La Verne Country Club. He claimed the developers just want to build homes.

But just like in La Verne, the area isn't zoned for homes.

Video from the Vellano HOA board meeting in March 2018 shows the owner, a man identified as Michael Schlesinger, saying if the community can't come to some sort of agreement on development, the course will close.

"All the grass dies, all the trees die, it's not a great situation, which is why we're here to try to come up with solutions to prevent that," he's heard saying.

Now, the developer has fenced off the former course.

The city of Chino Hills wrote a letter to the developer, saying the fence needs to come down. The developer is now suing the city, trying to keep the fence up.

"There seems to be nothing these developers won't do in order to get their way. In Escondido, the same ownership, spread chicken feces behind homeowners who weren't willing to sign off on their plan to build homes," Konrad added.

He's talking about what happened years ago at a third golf course, this one in Escondido.

Homeowners believed the manure was spread as retaliation for opposing housing development on the course; the owner said it was fertilizer to keep the grass from dying.

The owner was fined $100,000 by San Diego County; he paid it, but there was no admission of wrongdoing.

And after years of controversy, that former golf course is now zoned for homes.

Eyewitness News repeatedly reached out to Michael Schlesinger for comment, but haven't heard back.

Back in La Verne, neighbors feel they're probably next.

"Is he going to put chicken manure out here like he did in Escondido? I don't know," said La Verne resident Chris Harrison. "It seems like he's pretty cutthroat, and he doesn't care one bit about the neighbors, it's all about the money."
Copyright © 2019 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.