Pierce County and University Place might have found a way to pay for 28 acres of parks next to the future Chambers Bay Golf Course.
The city is considering pledging $350,000 to help guarantee that two parks on the broader Chambers Creek Properties site will be ready when the golf course opens next year.
County officials propose that University Place pick up the tab through admission and sales tax revenues generated by the 18-hole, Scottish links-style golf course.
The city wouldn't have to front any money for park construction.
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Projections from consultant Kemper- Sports Management show the golf course will generate about $175,000 in city tax revenue the first year, County Executive John Ladenburg said last week.
Two options are proposed. The first requires University Place to make a $35,000 annual payment to the county for 10 years. The other involves creating a fund with city admission and sales tax dollars from the golf course. That money could help pay off the $350,000 and be used to get grants to make other improvements, Ladenburg said.
The two sides are still working on the details. The University Place City Council is scheduled to vote on the plan July 10.
If approved, the contribution would help Pierce County market the 930-acre project as more than an upscale golf course and open the property to the nongolfing public.
Mayor Gerald Gehring said he supports any plan that gives University Place residents more recreational opportunities, especially when it doesn't require cash upfront. "I think there's enough safeguards in doing it like this that it could work, " he said.
Ladenburg said development of the park space and golf course will attract businesses to University Place. "It will generate revenue for them to have this site developed, " he said.
Optimism on both sides appears to have grown since April, when University Place officials doubted they could cover any park costs.
The Pierce County Council last year froze some $19 million for golf course-related projects. It eventually released the money, including $3.5 million for construction of the North Meadow and the Central Meadow park areas.
But those funds came with the condition that University Place chip in 10 percent. County leaders reasoned that the parks, even though on county property, would be located within city limits, so the city of 31,000 stands to gain.
Central Meadow would feature 22 acres with trails immediately south of the golf course. North Meadow would be a 6-acre park on the north edge of the golf course.
The parks are part of Pierce County's master plan for the site. The county bought most of the property - formerly a gravel mine - in the early 1990s because it needed room to expand the Chambers Creek wastewater treatment plant.
University Place leaders, who are struggling with budget shortfalls as they ramp up the public-private Town Center development, previously told the county they didn't have any money to contribute. In fact, they recently put other park projects on hold until at least 2007.
That's why the idea of paying for new parks with future tax revenue is so appealing, Gehring said.
Although the city won't own and operate the park space, he said he's confident the county will take University Place's wishes into account.
"Here's a chance to get another big park in the city, " he said. "Someone else is building it, and no taxes will be raised."
The city's contribution could be viewed as a leap of faith in the golf course's success - faith that Ladenburg said is well-placed.
Based on projections by the consultant, University Place will collect more than enough revenue to cover $35,000 a year, he said. "The risk is fairly minimal, " he said.
The final decision belongs to the City Council. Councilwoman Linda Bird said the plan required some arm-twisting by the county, but University Place residents should benefit the most.
"Our citizens will be the primary users, so that's good, " she said.