The recurring question for some Provo residents has been when a development issue should be brought out of closed door sessions and to the public.

Provo Councilman Kay Van Buren said one issue, the future of East Bay Golf Course, has had enough private vetting and the public should now be made aware of what is happening.

Van Buren sponsored a rally Wednesday evening at the golf course to update people on a proposal to sell a portion of the golf course to accommodate a new medical school.

He said he has now sat through four closed meetings over the past few months discussing a possible agreement between Provo and Wasatch Educational, including a discussion at the last meeting about signing a letter of intent.

“I thought, ‘We are going to sign a letter of intent without disclosing it to the public?’” Van Buren said. “That just didn’t seem right to me.”

Provo Mayor John Curtis and Wasatch Educational, the holding company of the university, released statements Wednesday morning before the rally was held.

In part, Curtis’ blog called the information about the golf course the “least kept secret in town” but went on to let the public know just what’s up. Curtis confirmed in the post that a proposed medical schools would be located on the northwest corner of the course, where holes 10, 11 and 12 currently sit.

“The offer is still subject to Municipal Council approval inasmuch as a portion of the current golf course will need to be placed on the surplus property list,” Curtis’ blog post says.

Wasatch Educational’s statement confirmed that it is working with Provo to finalize a proposal.

“Wasatch Educational is currently working with the City of Provo to finalize a proposal, subject to approval by the Provo City Council, to build the medical school on 24 acres of the northwestern portion of the East Bay Golf Course (approximately 11 percent of the total golf course acreage),” the statement reads.

Curtis’ blog post describes how the new configuration would include an exclusive island hole, and that Provo is in the process of soliciting a professional golf course designer to prepare a plan for the three new holes, as well as any other modifications required to keep a championship 18-hole course along with a seven-hole executive course.

In November, a public process will commence wherein the Municipal Council will take public comment, according to Curtis.

“This will be an opportunity for our elected official to hear from all interested parties relative to the golf course and the medical school,” Curtis says in the blog post. “It will be an attempt to balance the needs and desires of the golfing community and the opportunity of improving our local economy and quality of life for all our residents.”

Several of those who spoke at the rally expressed that the golf course is heavily used by youth golfers, including four local high school teams, and needs to be preserved.

Randy Dodson, with the Utah Golf Foundation, said that 30 percent of the rounds of golf played this year by Youth on the Course kids were played on the East Bay Course.

“I understand there can be a win-win where the medical school can go on 10, 11, 12 and we can build three new holes as long as it’s championship style courses, as long as there is budget allotted to do that properly and the agreement does not allow for more of a land grab,” Dodson said.

But many people share the concern that obtaining the three holes would simply be a foot in the door for the developer to end up buying more of the golf course.

“Once there is a door open for the developer, my understanding is they would pretty much want all of the I-15 corridor, which would force us to lose the executive holes and therefore the Youth on the Course program here at East Bay,” Dodson said. “I just want to make sure the public is aware and that the city council and mayor are aware that this is an issue that deserves public comment.”

The relocation of the three holes would be at the expense of the developer, according to Wasatch Educational’s statement, and would not change the existing seven-hole executive short course, driving range, or other buildings currently on the course.

“The East Bay Golf Course will remain a viable community jewel for years to come,” Wasatch Educational’s statement said.

Wasatch Educational plans to integrate extensive green space in and around the medical school campus, creating a park-like atmosphere, which both protects and preserves the environment, nature, wildlife and bird life, according to the statement.

Another speaker at the rally, Dick Harmon, is a Provo native who said he opposes selling off the three holes.

“Don’t let them think that they can take three holes off here, and keep a championship course here,” Harmon said. “Because they will keep whittling it away and whittling away, and they have no right to do that.”

But Curtis said it could be a win-win for Provo — an enhanced golf course and a medical school.

“Our golfing community will be able to enjoy an improved layout and design,” Curtis said in his blog post. “The medical school and the health education facility bring jobs, capital investment, increased property and sales tax and educational opportunities.”

Van Buren told those at the rally that they would need to be diligent in going to city council meetings and contacting city council members about the issue.

“This is just the beginning of the dialogue,” Van Buren said. “It’s going to have to continue to be loud and forthright to get the message (out).”

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can be contacted at gpugmire@heraldextra.com, (801) 344-2910, Twitter @gpugmire

A 32-year veteran of covering news in Utah County, Genelle covers Provo, Orem, Faith/Religion, including the LDS Church and general assignments.

Katie England covers politics, county government and southern Utah County for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at 801-344-2599 or kengland@heraldextra.com.

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