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Kent City Council decides to sell par 3 golf course

The Kent City Council agreed Tuesday to try to sell the city
The Kent City Council agreed Tuesday to try to sell the city's par 3 golf course property to a developer.
— image credit: Kent Reporter, file photo

The Kent City Council unanimously agreed on Tuesday night to try to sell the city's par 3 golf course to a developer for a potential housing and retail project.

Just a month ago the council directed city staff to seek proposals from golf management companies about what they might do to turn the Riverbend Golf Complex into a moneymaker. The complex also features an 18-hole course, driving range and merchandise shop.

But Parks Director Jeff Watling told the council at its workshop that a golf management company could not solve Riverbend's major issues of $2.6 million debt, capital investments of at least $6 million and operating efficiencies to eliminate annual losses of about $300,000 per year.

"It absolutely makes me sick to my stomach," said Councilman Dennis Higgins on moving ahead to sell the par 3. "But I'm not going to trade police or street repairs for a golf course that is supposed to be sustaining itself and should be sustaining itself."

It's expected to take city staff anywhere from three to five months to compile a request for qualifications to see what developers are interested in buying and developing the property, said Tom Brubaker, city interim chief administrative officer.

City officials then would narrow the list of developers to probably two to submit more specific plans known as a request for proposals. The process would be similar to how the city lined up Goodman Real Estate Inc., to develop The Platform Apartments under construction at Fourth Avenue North and West Smith Street on property the city sold.

The par 3 sits next to the Green River with stunning views of Mount Rainier. A developer told the council in November the site could feature retail shops, public open spaces, a hotel, apartments and possibly condos.

Watling told the council the city expects to get at least $8 million from the sale. That would be enough to cover the debt owed to an inter-fund loan (money that the city borrowed from its water and fleet funds to help pay off the bond for the golf complex), pay for capital improvements and help cover operating losses.

A large group of people filled the Council Chambers to hear the council discuss the par 3 sale. Most left disappointed with the decision.

"Nobody was surprised," said Kent resident and golfer R.C. Sample, who has fought the sale of the par 3 since the city proposed the idea in May. "Their intention from the get-go was to sell this property."

Sample, who requested and received documents from the city to examine the Riverbend operating budgets, said he recently proposed to city officials to close the par 3 for four months to save money; revisit with the state Department of Ecology, the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for access to the Green River to help water the course and reduce water expenses; and reduce expenses of $361,000 a year paid to other city departments to help run Riverbend.

But Sample said the council prefers to listen to city staff and doesn't closely examine the Riverbend operating budget.

"If they took time to look at the details I have, they'd be appalled," Sample said about the council. "They won't do that or don't know how to. They should insist that their staff provide them with adequate information so they can make valid, intelligent decisions."

If the par 3 is sold, city staff has proposed building a three-hole par 3 course east of the driving range as well as installing forward tees at the 18-hole course to accommodate golfers of all ages and abilities.

"In an effort to save the 18-hole course, I don't see any other option," Councilman Les Thomas said. "This has been an albatross around our neck for a long, long time even when the economy was good. I don't see another choice at this point."

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