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Public hearing for Kent's par 3 property rezone on July 28

The city of Kent might sell its Riverbend par 3 golf course to a developer to get rid of golf course debt and pay for improvements to the 18-hole course. - Kent Reporter, file photo
The city of Kent might sell its Riverbend par 3 golf course to a developer to get rid of golf course debt and pay for improvements to the 18-hole course.
— image credit: Kent Reporter, file photo

Residents can tee up their comments and let the city of Kent know what they think of the proposal to rezone the Riverbend Golf Complex par 3 course property in order to sell it to a developer.

The city's Land Use and Planning Board will have a public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday, July 28 at City Hall to hear comments about whether to rezone the 23 acres and what type of development to allow.

The City Council unanimously agreed in April 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.

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 land use board discussed the zoning options for the par 3 property for more than one hour on Monday during a workshop. City staff recommended option 2 out of four options in order to rezone the property as general commercial mixed use (GC-MU). That would allow a broad mix of uses, and any multifamily residential (apartments, hotel) must include 5 percent commercial use. Nearly all commercial uses are allowed as well as outdoor storage.

Board member Katherine Jones said Kent needs to keep up with surrounding cities that are bringing in developments.

"Burien is looking at a senior citizen development," Jones said. "The city of Covington near Costco is doing a huge medical development. It's coming to Kent, Black Diamond, Maple Valley, Auburn, Enumclaw. If we put up barricades to stop quality development there are plenty of cities to our east, west, south and north who will take advantage of it."

After the public hearing, the board is expected to vote on a recommendation to the council about how to rezone the property south of West Meeker Street or whether to rezone it. In order for any development to occur, the land must be rezoned from its low intensity uses and its designation as open space under the city's comprehensive plan.

City Planning Director Fred Satterstrom told the board the controversial land use decision is similar to when city officials decided to sell land to a developer to build the Kent Station shopping center and when the city decided to turn city-owned ball fields into the ShoWare Center arena.

"A lot of people lament the loss of the par 3 golf course, it isn't gone yet but we're looking at the potential of that," Satterstrom said. "At the same time, it could be one of those significant futuristic steps into a type of development that serves as a remarkable gateway into Kent coming down off the hillside from the freeway.

"This could be a very significant gateway type of a development much like the other significant controversial steps the city has taken in the past. I say this to tell you that this isn't the first time that something like this has happened. There have been several cases where this has happened in the past."

Board member Barbara Phillips voiced concerns about a developer turning the property into an exclusive area.

"This community is very diverse and we need to have things that are attractive to everyone not just certain groups," Phillips said. "I'm hoping that when we look at the economic development there are ideas on how to attract the community and make it part of this and be invested into the community. Because I hear an exclusive nature in all of this and I'm truly concerned about it."

Senior planner Erin George told the board the property is centrally located to Interstate 5 and Highway 167 with access along Highway 516. The property includes 1,500 feet of frontage along Meeker Street and 2,000 feet of Green River and trail frontage.

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

The land use board, an appointed group by the mayor and council, expects people will show up at the public hearing as they did when the council considered whether to try to sell the par 3 property.

"I don't know how many people will be in attendance as far as the pro and con of losing the golf course," Board Chairman Jack Ottini said. "I would think there would be more people that want to keep it than those who want to develop it."

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