Kent's Land Use Board recommends rezoning par 3 property for development

Kent resident Dan Ulrey tells the city
Kent resident Dan Ulrey tells the city's Land Use and Planning Board on July 28 that he opposes the rezoning of the Riverbend par 3 course for a mixed-use development.
— image credit: STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

Kent city officials took another step toward kissing the Riverbend Golf Complex par 3 course goodbye and turning the property into a mixed-use development.

The city's Land Use and Planning Board voted 7-0 Monday night to recommend the City Council rezone the 24-acre site along the Green River with views of Mount Rainier from open space to general commercial mixed use. That would allow a broad mix of uses. Any multifamily residential (apartments, condos, hotel) must include 5-percent commercial use.

The council unanimously agreed in April to try to sell the course to a developer to help bail out the financially struggling 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 as well as the capital improvements needed on the 18-hole course.

"I want the city to be financially sound," said Board Chairman Jack Ottini prior to the vote. "I've got fire, police, public works, streets, water and sewer, basically that's what we all want. All of this other stuff (parks, arts) if things are going good and we're making money, that's fine. But we have to reign it in somewhere and do things accordingly. You just can't keep funding and funding. The council's got some pretty big items to take care of."

Ten residents spoke against the sale and rezoning of the par 3 property during a public hearing before the land use board's vote.

"I don't want to see more apartments," said Chris Ullrich, a West Hill resident. "I want to see a beautiful open space where my friends and family and I can enjoy what we have. We've been given an incredible gift down here with this land we have. It's sad to see it paved over and torn up. I'd really would like to convince the board to consider leaving it as a park for future generations to enjoy with their families."

Several residents spoke in favor of keeping the land as open space, even if the city shuts down the par 3 course.

"Strip malls and apartments are a dime a dozen," said resident Dan Ulrey. "This thing is priceless. It really is. You should save it for parks development. I think you're taking the short way out and shouldn't do it."

One resident spoke in favor of the property rezone.

"What we need is a good 18-hole golf course which is literally a gem of Kent," said Charles Silver. "If we sell that and make it multi-use, the (18-hole) golf course across the street will be incredibly gifted. The driving range really needs some work. We need the money to fix the golf course up. The par 3 is not an extraordinary par 3. The (18-hole) golf course is extraordinary and it needs some help."

City officials want to rezone the property from open space to general commercial mixed use before trying to market it to a developer.

"Selling it to developers in my mind is greed on the part of the city of Kent," said resident Bruce Merle. "They want to put money in their coffers. Governments always want more money. We want this retained as a resource for the people of Kent. It's a beautiful location."

The land use board's rezone recommendation is tentatively scheduled to go before the council's Economic and Community Development Committee on Aug. 11, said City Planning Director Fred Satterstrom. If approved by the committee, the rezone would go to the full council.


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