OCEANSIDE — Negotiations to turn the Goat Hill golf course into a private soccer academy came quickly and ended abruptly.
Dell Loy Hansen, head of Real Salt Lake Major League Soccer franchise, said he withdrew his interest in the site halfway through the March 19 meeting, prior to City Council’s decision to go back to negotiation with Goat Hill Partners LLC to renovate and manage the golf course.
During the meeting, more than 40 speakers protested the proposal by Hansen to turn the public parkland into a private soccer academy site.
Real Salt Lake Major League Soccer franchise, based in Utah, proposed six soccer fields, 5,000-seat bleachers, a hotel, and a smaller golf course on the 70-plus-acre site.
Hansen said he had no idea of the community’s passion to keep the public land a golf course during the preliminary stage of negotiations with city staff that began in September 2013.
“At the end I was impressed by the extent of community involvement for the failed golf course to be repurposed,” Hansen said. “Without hesitation I withdrew my interest.
“There is a strong community connection to the golf course I was not aware of.”
The abruptness of Hansen walking away from negotiations was news to Doug Eddow, city real estate manager.
“I didn’t know Hansen had withdrawn his offer,” Eddow said. “The day before we were putting together terms of a deal.”
Direction to city staff on March 19 was to continue negotiations with Goat Hill Partners, headed by John Ashworth, that were started in September 2012.
At the time the city began negotiations with Ashworth, three mixed-use proposals, which shared similarities to Hansen’s, had been rejected.
Site use is very specific. The 76 acres of land was donated to the city by the Bledsoe family with the provision the land be used as open space or parkland unless a citizen vote approved another land use.
A 12.5-acre site on Mission Avenue was also donated to the city, and later sold and developed with the unfulfilled promise that money would go toward developing Goat Hill.
Ashworth’s proposal calls for the rundown golf course to be redesigned by renowned golf architect Tom Doak.
The proposal also promises the development of a new clubhouse, a two-story restaurant, a six-hole kids course, a community vegetable garden and a botanical garden.
Speakers at the March 19 meeting were very supportive of the site remaining a golf course.
Goat Hill golf course is known for its ocean views, reasonable $10 rates and quirky charm.
Ashworth’s proposal still needs to be finalized and go through public process.
Since negotiations with Ashworth began, they have been three delays.
The first two delays were by Ashworth, citing finances and personal reasons.
“He wanted additional time for due diligence, and to secure financial partners,” Eddow said. “We accommodated him and granted the delays.”
According to city staff there was also a question of whether the city would pay some of the water bill, which the city will not.
The third, most recent delay, was the 90-day extension, which was requested by the city in 2013 to consider Hansen’s proposal.
Eddow said negotiations with Ashworth are almost complete, and are expected to be finalized soon.
“We’re prepared to move forward with conditions and terms discussed with council,” Eddow said. “It’s a good idea and what they wanted. We’re close to getting that.”
A public outreach meeting on the proposal will be held within the next few weeks, and then the item will be brought back to council for final approval.
“If the (outreach) meeting is in support, we’ll come back to council as quickly as we can,” Eddow said. “We’re in active negotiations.”
The lease agreement will hold Ashworth responsible to renovate and operate the golf course.