FAQ: Can course become residential or mitigation bank land under CWA?

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: We are regularly asked, can this course become residential or commercial development land or mitigation bank land under the Clean Water Act? What can it be?

The short answer is NO because there are several key factors at play.

THE BASICS: The historical zoning is Agricultural with special use permits for operation. The Fallbrook Golf Course consists of 116 acres made up of 9 tax assessors’ parcels but it is only 2 legal parcels. Six of the 9 tax assessors’ parcels hold Special Use Permits allowing use as “Recreational-Vacant Land” and three parcels as “Golf Course.” Any change in use can trigger the necessity of acquiring a new permit, a zoning change and/or subdividing the property in compliance with the Subdivision Map Act.

RESIDENTIAL OR COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT: It is very difficult to change Agricultural Zoning to high density residential or commercial zoning. Even if rezoning to Residential could be accomplished, the San Diego General Plan restricts development to 4, 8 or 16 acres per house, depending on slope. Add in setbacks for riparian and flood plan areas, roads, utilities and the various easements that exist on the property and this project is quickly rendered financially unviable. Because the golf course is located in a flood plan in low density, semi-rural Fallbrook, increasing building density or height limits requires changing the San Diego County General Plan, an onerous process with no guarantee of success.

There are far better properties available for development for far less money in North San Diego County.

MITIGATION BANKING: For mitigation bankers seeking limited acreage on the back nine near the semi-dry creek for developing into fenced-off mitigation bank land (under the Clean Water Act) purposes, the property must be subdivided first and its zoning and use changed from Open Space/Recreational to a fenced, closed property. Without community support, this change is highly unlikely to receive County approval since both the County Plan and the Fallbrook Community Plan both contain language protecting Open Space/Recreational land. Additionally, in its current form, the Subdivision Map Act requires any buyer to acquire the entire back nine parcel which also includes the parking lot and restaurant/bar. Add in that the location is not prime for mitigation banking purposes because there is little above-ground water in the area. Therefore, this purchase does not pencil out for a mitigation banker who is interested in wetlands to offset loss of wetlands in other parts of the County.

Again, there are far better properties available for mitigation banking for far less money in North San Diego County. However, this is an area that a new owner might explore since mitigation land banking has been done in conjunction with working golf/recreational/agricultural properties. Budget 5 years for paperwork, another 5 for enhancement before seeing non-repeating income from the sale of mitigation land banking credits.

In summary, due to restrictions in San Diego County General Plan, the Subdivision Map Act, and simple economics, golf or agricultural use is a great future for the property. Add in wedding venue, combined with a restaurant, bar and a new owner would have a viable business model. Adding conservation easements to the property will generate tax benefits to the owners while delivering a wonderful gift to the community.

For the right buyer, this is an amazing opportunity to buy!

CONSERVATION EASEMENTS/CONVENANTS DELIVER ADDITIONAL BENEFITS TO THE COMMUNITY AND A NEW OWNER:  Conservation easements/covenants are commitments to forego certain potentially valuable development rights in return for tax benefits to the owner. This additional layer of assurance to the community means that the property will never be developed. See this link on conservation easements/covenants. We are also happy to connect you to experts in this area. Just ask! Thank you!


Meanwhile, when evaluating the potential earning capacity of Fallbrook Golf Course as a golf course, it’s worth noting the AVERAGE HOUSEHOLD INCOME in the area. These, of course, are an indicator of disposable incomes:

FALLBROOK: Average household income: $86,220. (For more info.)

GIRD VALLEY: Average household income: $151,575. (For more info.)

BONSALL: Average household income: $113,910. (For more info.)