City of Kent must rezone par 3 golf course to allow development

The city of Kent plans to rezone its Riverbend par 3 golf course in an effort to attract a developer to buy the property and build a retail-housing project. - STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter
The city of Kent plans to rezone its Riverbend par 3 golf course in an effort to attract a developer to buy the property and build a retail-housing project.
— image credit: STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

Kent city officials are taking steps to rezone the city's par 3 golf course to allow for a potential housing and retail project.

The City Council agreed April 1 to try to sell the course to a developer to help bail out the financially struggling Riverbend Golf Complex, which also features an 18-hole course, driving range and merchandise shop.

But the land is zoned for low intensity uses and is designated as open space under the city's comprehensive plan.

The state's Growth Management Act (GMA) only allows the city to modify its plan once a year and that cycle doesn't start until September. But if the council declares an emergency exists, the city can amend its comprehensive plan sooner.

"An emergency is defined as an issue of community wide significance that promotes the public health, safety and general welfare," City Planning Director Fred Satterstrom said at the council's Economic and Community Development Committee meeting on Monday. "Clearly, looking at the fiscal sustainability of the city the issue of looking at the potential development of the par 3 certainly in my mind is an issue we can define as an emergency."

Riverbend faces a $2.6 million debt, capital investments of at least $6 million and operating deficits of about $300,000 per year. City officials hope to sell the par 3 to cover the debt and capital improvements to the 18-hole course.

The committee voted 3-0 to approve a resolution submitted by city staff to move forward to make the zoning changes. The resolution goes to the full council next month.

"Doing this is consistent with our other action a couple of weeks ago," said Councilman Dennis Higgins. "It's a necessary step for the path that we have begun down. But it doesn't lock us in if we decide in the end to keep the par 3 if we find someway to do that. Simply having the comp plan changed doesn't preclude us from keeping it a par 3."

A land use change takes time, however, even with the emergency declaration. Satterstrom estimated it could take up to five months before the change is complete.

"It's a legal process," Satterstrom said. "Public hearings are required by law. It will be heard by our Land Use and Planning Board that will make a recommendation to the council."

Satterstrom said city staff will look at alternative zonings for the site and even a no-action alternative, which means do nothing. But he added staff remains aware of what the council wants for the site and will make a recommendation for a preferred option.

"There are just a lot of legal hoops to jump through," he said.

City staff also is in the process to compile a request for qualifications to see what developers are interested in buying and developing the property. That process also could take up to five months.

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