The sale of Sumner’s city golf course to an industrial developer could soon come to a vote, and officials say approval of a deal would lower residents’ utility rates and improve the city’s financial health.
The City Council will review and likely take action in August on an agreement to sell Sumner Meadows Golf Links to a short-listed buyer, city spokeswoman Carmen Palmer said last week.
Sumner officials say selling the property will have a broad financial effect.
The city still owes about $5.8 million on the property. Last year, officials determined they could not continue to subsidize the operation without raising taxes or utility rates.
The city’s utility fund paid for the land while the general fund paid to build the golf course, City Administrator John Galle said.
Galle said early miscalculations related to golf course revenue led to more borrowing and refinancing, increasing the burden on the city.
Selling the property is an effort to address that burden and its effects on the utility, Galle said.
The City Council voted this month to transfer ownership of the golf course property from the utility fund to the general fund. Galle said proceeds from the sale will pay back the utility for its years of financial support.
“The goal is to make the sewer utility completely whole,” he said.
Although not immediate, a result of replacing those funds would likely be lower utility rates, he said.
High water rates resulting from golf course troubles have been difficult for many residents, Palmer said.
In June, for example, utility customers received about 400 shut-off notices — more than 10 percent of the city’s customer base. Palmer said most of those people worked with the city to resolve their bills, but “that number does highlight how important rates are to lots of families.”
In addition to lowering rates and repaying debt, Galle said selling the golf course will help the city save for the future and cover the city’s $5 million share of the new YMCA, scheduled to open in 2015.
Meanwhile, the city’s longtime effort to find a buyer for the land has faced two legal challenges, one that has gone away and another that still poses a threat to the pending deal.
On July 16, the state Growth Management Hearings board dismissed a challenge by local developer Investco. The company contended that selling Sumner Meadows would lead to industrial development — causing noise, traffic and other problems at an apartment complex planned near the golf course.
Investco’s complaint challenged the city’s resolution declaring the golf course surplus property. The state board dismissed the complaint, stating it did not have jurisdiction.
The other case is pending in Pierce County Superior Court. Sumner City Attorney Brett Vinson said staff is working to have it dismissed.
Six Kilns Apartments, a proposed residential project by Investco, filed both complaints in April.
Principal Financial Group, an Iowa-based global investment group, has reportedly expressed interest in purchasing the golf course property, a 154-acre parcel that was part of a larger land acquisition by the city in 1993.
Brokers in Seattle said last month that Principal could build an industrial park on the land, according to a report first published in the Puget Sound Business Journal.
Andrew Coates, a spokesman with Principal’s Bellevue-based development partner KG Investment Management, did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the reported negotiations.
Last year, the City Council passed a resolution directing Mayor Dave Enslow to market the golf course.
The city enlisted Seattle-based real estate firm Colliers International to market the links to interested buyers earlier this year. Colliers solicited thousands of investment groups before narrowing the field to about 30. Bids closed in May.
Matt McGregor, Colliers senior vice president, said Sumner primarily attracted companies with an industrial focus, although it was open to all proposed uses.
The city built the golf course 17 years ago. Of the original 292 acres purchased in 1993, Sumner will retain 138 for various city uses, Galle said.Kari Plog: 253-597-8682 email@example.com @KariPlog