The owners of the closed Vellano Golf Course in Chino Hills will take down the chain-link fence it illegally installed in 2018.
The City of Chino Hills announced Tuesday that a settlement was reached with Western Golf Properties (WGP) Vellano, LLC to remove the fence within six months. WGP sued the city in July 2019 after refusing to take down the fence.
The once pristine Greg Norman 18-hole golf course that was the centerpiece of the custom home community off Woodview Road, west of Peyton Drive, was abandoned by WGP a year after purchasing it in 2017.
“The first year it looked like a dead golf course,” said Mike Konrad, president of the Vellano Homeowners Association. “Now it looks like a wild, natural canyon. Except for the greens and the cart paths, one might never know there was a golf course here.”
Mr. Konrad said it is his opinion that the developer installed thousands of feet of non-permitted chain link fence as retribution against the Vellano Homeowners Association for refusing its demands to lobby the city on its behalf to build additional housing on land designated for recreational use only.
“Our community stuck together, refused to endorse additional housing and with the support of the city, prevailed in our battle to remove the illegal fence that was a considerable eyesore,” he said.
WGP Vellano purchased the golf course in 2017 and met with the homeowners’ association for the next year to discuss building homes.
The residents were presented with three options: build 174 high density condos on the 18th hole, build 132 homes similiar to the existing homes over the entire golf course, or shut it down.
The golf course is zoned commercial recreation and a zoning change would be required.
Mr. Konrad said after the homeowners rejected additional housing, WGP closed the golf course in less than 24 hours and installed a fence shortly afterwards.
According to the municipal code, chain-link fencing is permitted for temporary construction if an active building permit has been issued.
The developer removed the sprinklers, the greens and the infrastructure so it could not be used as a golf course in the future, Mr. Konrad said.
The city’s code enforcement division issued violation notices for installing the fence and allowing the landscape and trees to die.
The city deemed the fence as a “visual blight that is grossly out of character with the community.”
Mr. Konrad said the developer destroyed the golf course to make way for houses, a tactic that worked at WGP-owned golf courses in Corona, Escondido, Rancho Mirage and others.
The Chino Hills Planning Commission in November 2018 denied WGP’s appeal of the code enforcement actions and scolded the developer’s attorney for submitting a 440-page letter the night before the hearing.
WGP representatives did not return the Champion’s request for comment, but previously said the golf course had been losing money since the day it opened.
Representatives said the demand for golf is down, expenses such as the cost of water is up, and there is a massive oversupply of golf courses.
Danielle Barnes, fire marshal for the Chino Valley Fire Dsitrict, said two notices for weed abatement were issued to the golf course owners in late December and they have until Jan. 31 to comply.
She said during spring inspections of 2020, two citations at $300 each were issued to the golf course owners, not including a $15 processing fee for each citation.
Two citations were also issued in spring 2019 for the same amount, Ms. Barnes said.
She said the fire district conducted abatement on the property because the golf course owners did not fully comply with the notices.
Mr. Konrad said he hopes the developer will take down the fence in six months and not create further stalling tactics.
He said the Vellano community is grateful to the city council for its efforts to enforce the city ordinance on the installation of the chain-link fence.
He looked on the bright side.
“As the former golf course disappears and the natural indigenous landscape returns, our homeowners can now enjoy the beautiful views of natural Southern California landscapes unobstructed by unnecessary chain-link fencing,” he said.