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County supervisor faces crowd opposed to campus for healing in Vista

A plan to buy a ranch in Vista and build a healing campus has sparked community controversy. On Sunday, County Supervisor Jim Desmond faced the crowds to answer their questions. KPBS North County reporter Tania Thorne was there.

News of the county’s intent to purchase Green Oak Ranch hasn’t sat well with many Vista residents.

In late April, Supervisor Jim Desmond introduced his idea of a Campus For Healing; a 200-bed treatment center for adults with mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

On Sunday at Vista City Hall, Desmond faced a crowd looking for answers about the proposal.


"We may not even get the property ... and I get the vibe in this room that you don't want us to get it," Desmond said, getting some applause from the audience.  

Many of the residents’ questions were about the impact to the community and security.

"Will you allow sex offenders at the facility?" asked resident Tim Troncone, who lives near the ranch and has started a community action group, Save Green Oak Ranch, to stop the development of the campus for healing. 

Desmond’s response to safety concerns was the promise of on-site security and a Sheriff's deputy on location 24/7. Troncone said his group wants the city of Vista to buy the site instead.

"If they want to build a similar facility on a local level supporting the citizens of Vista, I'm all for that," he said. "But a county-run facility, taking people from downtown all the way up to Vista, 45 minutes away, is wrong."


The city of Vista is currently getting the property appraised, and council member Dan O’Donnell said he hopes the city will submit a formal offer.

"(The ranch) is a unicorn. It is 120 acres in our city that will literally never come up again. Not in our lifetime. Not in the next lifetime," O'Donnell said. "I want to see that space activated in a lot of different ways. And that could be ballfields. That could be more parks that can be improved. Trails. Job training facilities. Fire training facilities."

O'Donnell would also like to keep the programs already on site continue operating without interruption.

This “unicorn” is overseen by a land board, which so far has kept a low profile. They do have two offers to review already, from the county and from Solutions for Change, a nonprofit organization in Vista helping people get out of homelessness.

No timelines are known for the sale of the property.

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