The owners of Vellano Golf Course filed a lawsuit against the City of Chino Hills Monday for its “unlawful attempt" to prevent them from securing their golf course with a chain-link fence.
In March, the city council deemed the chain-link fence a “visual blight that is grossly out of character with the community,” denying the developer’s appeals to the city.
The exclusive gated community is located off Woodview Road, west of Peyton Drive.
WGP Vellano, a partnership including Robert “Bobby” Heath and Michael Schlesinger, purchased the 18-hole golf course in 2017, shut it down in May 2018, and began installing a chain-link fence around a portion of the golf course without permits.
WGP Vellano installed 8,943 linear feet of fencing before being told by the city in July 2018 that chain-link fencing is not allowed and that it should be removed.
WGP Vellano is requesting that another 9,200 linear feet of fence be installed to complete the project, for a total of 3.5 miles of fencing.
Mayor Cynthia Moran said she would rather see the property owner work with the city in a more productive manner.
“I have to wonder whether the property owner will spend more money paying its attorneys than the cost of putting in fencing that is consistent with the surrounding development,” she said. “But this is the path it has chosen, and it has the right to go down this path.”
The lawsuit cites public safety as the top reason the fence is necessary, especially to deter trespassers from entering the closed golf course and sustaining personal injuries or causing damage to private property.
“The former golf course has multiple paths, open spaces, and features that are inviting to potential trespassers, such as wooded areas. Without an effective barrier, individuals are exposed to hazards that may threaten serious injury or death,” according to the lawsuit.
Councilman Ray Marquez, who represents the district where the golf course is located, said the city has fencing standards throughout Chino Hills.
“They have to follow the same standards as everybody else,” Councilman Marquez said. “It’s not that we’re not allowing them to put up a fence. It has to be the right type of fence.”
The city informed the owners that chain-link fencing is not a permitted fence material according to the municipal code, and that walls and fences should consist of masonry, stone, brick, concrete, wrought iron, tubular steel, or another type of material approved by the planning commission or the community development director.
The city also initiated code enforcement action against WGP Vellano for overgrown, dead, decayed, and diseased trees, weeds, and vegetation that constituted an “unsightly appearance,” insufficient groundcover, and lack of vegetation, shrubs, or lawns.
WGP Vellano wants to develop houses on a portion of the golf course but the Vellano Homeowners’ Association is opposed.
The property owner has also purchased distressed golf courses in Escondido and La Verne for the same purpose.
Mr. Heath previously told the Champion that the Vellano course could not sustain its financial viability, consistent with a national trend among golf courses, where the industry has undergone a significant decline.
“WGP Vellano wants to build 250 homes on the former golf course property, even though the land is zoned for recreational use,” said Mike Konrad, president of the Vellano Homeowners’ Association. “If we allow developers to flaunt the law and terrorize homeowners in order to build more housing on protected land, there will be a long line of developers headed to our hills eying the large beautiful open spaces that make our city so attractive to its residents.”
Mr. Konrad said the residents of Vellano look forward to the city’s commitment to fight for what is right.
City should be forced
WGP Vellano is asking the court to issue a writ of mandate commanding the city to allow the chain-link fencing around the property without a permit, consistent with the municipal code, or to issue a writ of mandate directing the city to issue a side development permit for the chain-link fencing.
In an attempt to resolve the matter, the City of Chino Hills entered into a 60-day agreement in May with WGP Vellano that expired June 29, with no resolution.
The agreement allowed the property owner to propose an alternative fencing option during a period of time in which the city would suspend any administrative action against them while WGP Vellano agreed to suspend its extensive public records act request for documents.
The deadline came and went with no resolution and the lawsuit was filed two days later.