Why we won’t hurry on Chambers Bay golf resort

Democrat Connie Ladenburg represents District 4 on the Pierce County Council.
Democrat Connie Ladenburg represents District 4 on the Pierce County Council. Courtesy photo

In mid-December, the Pierce County Council was provided with the Chambers Bay Resort Ground Lease Agreement (GLA) to review and approve. There are significant facts that need to be shared to supplement the News Tribune’s recent editorial, “Seal the deal on Chambers Bay Resort.”

The council passed the Chambers Creek Regional Park Master Site Plan in September 2017, at which time the public and council were guaranteed to be brought along in the GLA negotiation process. The agreement was to address many concerns and fears the public and council expressed with the potential resort project.

Fast forward to mid-December 2018, the first time the council or public received any inkling of a GLA.

The intent of the resort development, located on a small footprint below the restaurant, is to secure the park’s future prosperity. I am not against a development on this site. I have meticulously reviewed the draft GLA through a lens of what’s best for the county, our residents, Chambers Creek Park Properties and Chambers Bay golf course.

There has always been a vision and plan for a resort to support the golf course by bringing tourism to our area; the intent was to use daily room rentals, in- and out-of-town golf fees, and restaurant use. But the draft GLA does not guarantee those types of benefits.

Some concerns for consideration:

▪  Guaranteed annual minimum rent obligation would not keep pace with historic rates of inflation. Furthermore, the percentage of rent as described contains no guarantee the county would receive any of the proceeds.

▪  The developer could establish 190 hotel or long-term rental golf villa units with no obligation to convert them to hotel rooms. This creates a risk of permanent multi-family residential development, which would eliminate the goal of tourism and put the viability of the course at risk.

▪  The county executive could authorize a casino or gaming operation, rezone the property and make substantial changes in use without council input.

▪  A portion of the resort is proposed to become a public plaza/small amphitheater, requiring relocation of the 9th tee box and changing the original course design copyrighted by architect Robert Trent Jones. Any change to the course without Jones’ approval would result in no longer being able to market it as a Jones’ course or as a Champion course. This action would have an impact on tourism and the play of the course.

▪  The county executive could permit the developer to construct and use the public plaza/amphitheater at no cost to the developer.

▪  There is language that refers to the entire 930 acres of Chambers Creek Park Properties. Previous negotiations never authorized use of the regional park beyond a 12.9-acre portion of the property adjacent to the access road.

▪  The tenant would have first right to purchase the golf course and other portions of the properties, including the county’s Environmental Services Building and any ground lease for additional multi-family, senior housing or hotels.

▪  Finally, there is no protective language assuring this land is maintained as a park or that the golf course becomes park property if no longer viable as a course.

One of the sole purposes of the council is “to adopt comprehensive plans and regulations affecting the present and future development of the County.” We take that responsibility seriously.

The draft GLA is a 70-page document that decides the future of this park for 99 years. Our citizens deserve for us to be deliberative and methodical in our review and recommendations. We will not hurry up and approve this agreement because someone pressured us to.

If we did, we wouldn’t be doing the job we were elected to do.

Connie Ladenburg, D-Tacoma, is in her second term representing Pierce County Council District 4. Reach her at connie.ladenburg@piercecountywa.gov