TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The future of green has many Oro Valley residents seeing red.
More than 700 people filled the Church of Nazarene Wednesday night for a special council meeting about the future of the town-owned golf courses.
The meeting was moved from council chambers to the church in anticipation of the large crowd.
“Keep the golf course open. Keep the tax base where it needs to be,” one man said during the public comment portion of the meeting.
The town purchased the El Conquistador Golf Club in 2014 for $1 million. In the last five years, it has cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
The council has laid out several options:
- 36-Hole Option without reconfiguration of holes
- 27-Hole Option with reconfiguration as presented in 2017 Consultants Report
- 18-Hole Option with no specific hole configuration/design assumed
- No Golf Option with assumption that all discontinued golf holes are converted to natural open space and/or public park space compatible with a resort type use
The meeting opened with a presentation to community members that shared pro’s and con’s for each situation. The most expensive option would be to keep 36-holes with improvements to irrigation systems. The town said consultants suggest the reconfiguration of 27-holes.
Most residents who stood at the podium said the course is priceless and the reason many moved to Oro Valley in the first place.
“I sincerely believe they are a community asset that is incredibly valuable and if abandoned can never be replaced," one man said. “Eliminating them would be a tragic mistake.”
“This is not about an adversarial challenge between golfers and non-golfers. It’s about maintaining and enhancing our property values, yours and mine, and creating a source of increasing revenue and intrinsic value for the properties surrounding El Conquistador," another added.
The concern over a decrease in the property values was echoed by many. That is something Golder Ranch Fire Chief Randy Karrer said could hurt public safety.
“It would have a cumulative and lasting effect that would most certainly injure the fire district in future years,” said Karrer.
Karrer told the council the decrease in property values could increase property taxes or cause a significant decrease in public safety services. Less revenue for the district would mean possible layoffs for firefighters and paramedics.
He added the increased fire danger that could come with an unkempt or natural landscape.
Whether for or against the closure of the courses, one thing was obvious in the room Wednesday night: The decision is driving a wedge between the community.
“The town is so divided now, residents can hardly have a civil conversation about the golf financials,” one woman said to the council. "The rhetoric has become so toxic that residents are in fear of speaking and attending this meeting tonight. One person even asked me if there were going to be armed police. That is a sad testament to this community. "