In a 5-2 vote Tuesday night, Provo’s city council OK’d a real estate purchase agreement with Wasatch Educational for the so-called north wedge of East Bay Golf Course. Councilmen Kay Van Buren and Dave Knecht voted against the agreement.
Wasatch Educational plans to build the Noorda College of Osteopathic Medicine on the 21 acres. It already operates Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions in Provo.
The agreement, as well as a resolution the city approved Tuesday night, states that Provo intends for its remaining property to continue being a golf course. As part of the deal, Wasatch Educational will build three new holes on the course. The new holes will be operational before it removes the old holes.
City officials have been negotiating the agreement for about six months. The last sticking points included environmental cleanup on the property and right of first refusal.
The golf course property was a landfill for 30 years. Both parties know there’s methane gas on the land. They have agreed that the developer will bear all costs associated with the gas. But they don’t know what else is underground, and won’t know until the developer starts digging. Under federal law, the city is responsible for cleaning up anything that happened while it owned the property. But the parties agreed that the city is responsible to get the property to golf-course standards. The developer would then be responsible to take it from golf-course level to residential or commercial level.
In January, Wasatch Educational estimated its remediation cost will be $10.5 million. Appraisals done by the city and school estimate the land — when buildable — is worth between $4.5 and $6 million.
The city also added a clause in the final agreement that the developer will use commercially reasonable construction methods to mitigate the release of possible hazardous materials.
Van Buren said he couldn’t support the agreement because of the unknown risks.
“I can’t honestly with a clean conscience want to put people and the citizens of our community at risk,” he said.
He said Lehi offered property to the medical school. People said they didn’t want Provo’s name on a statue in Lehi saying “thank you” for passing on the medical school. But “I’d rather not have my name or face on something that turns into a nightmare for the city of Provo.”
Councilman Gary Winterton, who voted for the deal, agreed that the risks and benefits are unknown. “The thing that bothers me is we don’t know the risks of what we’re getting into completely. And we don’t know how the medical school will benefit us. … The risk might be worth the potential benefit.”
Right of first refusal
Wasatch Education will have the right of first refusal, if the city decides to sell the golf course in the next 50 years. Under the agreement, in the event of a sale it would have 120 days to complete the requirements to close on the property. If it didn’t meet that deadline the city could sell to someone else.