OCEANSIDE — “Save The Goat” was the community rallying cry that rang out at the City Council meeting March 19.
The city is at the end of a 90 day extension to consider an agreement with Goat Hill Partners LLC, headed by John Ashworth, to upgrade the Center City Golf Course, fondly called Goat Hill.
The agreement with Ashworth began in September 2012 and has gone through a community process. It is within final stages of approval, that have been extended several times.
In September 2013, Real Salt Lake Major League Soccer franchise, headed by Dell Loy Hansen, and based in Utah, swept in to propose a soccer academy for elite players be developed on the 70 plus acres of public land.
City council members said negotiations with Hansen “came fast.”
The proposal includes upgrades to the present golf course, and the addition of six privatized soccer fields in the inital two years.
A further 50 year lease would include development of a 5,000 seat stadium, two hotels, and a smaller golf course.
“It’s an opportunity to bring a really cool situation to Oceanside,” Hansen said. “I’m glad to see so many passionate people like dirt golf, but the fairway’s gone.”
“Oceanside has the chance to become the soccer capital.”
City Council received over 200 emails, and 40 plus speakers addressed the item.
Most speakers protested the soccer academy. Many said plans would not fit the dimensions of the hilly golf course property unless the land was cut and filled.
The majority of speakers said the soccer academy that promised a professional soccer team in three years, and brought with it stadium lights and traffic, was an ill fit for the residential neighborhood.
“It’s a private entity that wants to steal our parkland,” Oceanside resident Pamela Myers said.
“I’ve been playing that course for 30 years, and am not going to stop playing it,” Oceanside resident Lance Faanes said, adding he would continue to play golf there despite added soccer fields.
Perhaps one of the most persuasive speakers was Janet Bledsoe Lacy, who reminded City Council that her family helped bring about 1972 city legislation that requires a public vote on land use changes.
“The city cannot take any park or recreation property without a vote of the people of Oceanside,” Lacy said.
Ashworth also spoke against the alternative proposal.
“We sumitted a plan and were chosen back in August,” Ashworth said. “One hundred and twenty days ago we thought we were ready to go.”
“I want what’s best for city as well, but now that I know the other plan, it’s not even close.
“I hope you will reconsider our plan to make Goat Hill a sense of pride for the community and detination for tourists.”
Councilman Gary Felien said it was worthwhile to look at both Hansen’s and Ashworth’s proposals and determine which would be more profitable for the city.
Councilman Jack Feller said he heard the community say the soccer academy was a good idea, but not in Oceanside.
“I can’t see this working, being in this location,” Feller said.
Councilwoman Esther Sanchez also voiced objection to Hansen’s proposal.
There was a cheer when Mayor Jim Wood summerized council’s direction to staff was to go back to negotiations with Ashworth.
Hansen had already left the meeting, after presenting a brief overview of the project, and anouncing he was catching a plane to return to Utah.
Prior to the meeting, Hansen said he “would go quitely into the night” if the city did not think the soccer academy and hotel were the best use for the property.
City staff that worked with Hansen on the land use proposal said he would not be interested after 60 days.
City Manager Steve Jepsen said the 60 day time limit Hansen put on negotiations may have been contingent upon a franchise agreement.
Jepsen added considering the alternative proposal would push along negotiations with Ashworth, and help things “come together faster.”
Some speakers compared the “crazy idea” of a soccer academy, to the proposed Chargers stadium in Oceanside.
At that time Wood said the stadium was unlikely, but discussion with developers was good publicity for the city.