Proposed resort could be a tourist boon for University Place

The News TribuneMarch 4, 2014 

This 2007 photo shows the Chambers Creek Properties site, including Chambers Bay golf course. A developer proposes to build a second course and a resort hotel on the site.

STAFF PHOTO

The online snipers are already weighing in on a $120 million proposal for a golf course and resort hotel/conference center at Chambers Bay. And they’re not happy. Not happy at all.

Yes, folks, let’s look this gift horse squarely in the mouth. After all, it’s not as if the developer – Bob Sonnenblick of Los Angeles – would foot the bill for the project.

Oh, wait a minute: He would.

“We put up 100 percent of the money,” he told The News Tribune’s Steve Maynard.

Repeat: He would pay for it. Not taxpayers, not sewer customers. All we’d have to do is enjoy the tourism revenue and sales tax money the project would generate – along with the jobs, of course. Can’t have that.

Sonnenblick Development – which has been involved in a number of high-end projects all over the country – is in very preliminary talks with Pierce County about a $120 million proposal for the Chambers Bay site in University Place. It has until mid-June to to come up with a project and financing plan. Even if it gets the green light, nothing would start happening until after the U.S. Open in June 2015.

So there’s no harm in seeing what Sonnenblick envisions for the site. At the very least, it would be exciting to see what a company with Sonnenblick’s impressive portfolio thinks is doable at Chambers Bay.

For their part, county officials have to ask whether the region could support another golf course – even one with an incredible view that golfers can get around on with carts, something they can’t do at Chambers Bay, a public links-style course owned by Pierce County. After four years, the course started making money only last year. The Sonnenblick project would be privately operated and would use the same course designer as Chambers Bay, Robert Trent Jones Jr.

Other questions: The public worked for months on the master site plan for Chambers Creek Properties, and it involved only one golf course. How would adding a second, 180-acre course affect the variety of public uses that were identified in the master planning process?

Would there be any impact on the hugely popular walking trail? Would a second course be any barrier to future national tournaments? And what would be the impacts of additional traffic on the surrounding community?

None of these questions necessarily suggests a deal-killer. In fact, it’s a luxury to have such an important proposal to ask questions about. It means private development is finally discovering the potential of the Chambers Creek Properties site.

Who knows whether the Sonnenblick proposal is the one that will materialize. Just the fact that the discussion is happening is a welcome one.

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