Debate of golf course finances continues

Maple Valley bought Lake Wilderness Golf Course to keep it from being turned into another neighborhood. While homeowners on or near the course are happy the city bought it, many wonder if the way Maple Valley wants to recoup the costs is fair.

  • Monday, June 2, 2008 12:08pm
  • News

Maple Valley bought Lake Wilderness Golf Course to keep it from being turned into another neighborhood. While homeowners on or near the course are happy the city bought it, many wonder if the way Maple Valley wants to recoup the costs is fair.

They told the City Council during public hearings and written testimony during the past month that they aren’t so sure about the preliminary benefit study that suggests divvying up half of the purchase cost of the course among three classes of homeowners in Lake Wilderness Country Club using a local improvement district (LID).

Assistant city manager Philip Morley said the council closed the public hearing portion of the process at its meeting April 28 and “unanimously directed staff to update the benefit study that is the basis for determining the assessment amount” and to give the council “information on a full range of alternatives to the LID to help the council decide whether to proceed.”

Morley added that the council members want the staff to help coordinate one more public information meeting before they make decision on “forming an LID and recording a conservation easement on the golf course property, or possibly not.”

The council is considering adopting an easement that would prevent the course from being developed in perpetuity.

In addition, the council is considering forming a limited improvement district, which would assess homeowners who live near the course and are purportedly gaining a greater benefit from the course.

Maple Valley purchased the course in November 2006 when YarrowBay Group offered to sell its option to buy it from then-owner American Golf. YarrowBay had planned to turn the course property into a housing development.

The city paid about $4.5 million for the course and is seeking to recoup about half of the cost — $2.4 million — through the LID as it chose to temporarily defer spending on other projects.

Bob Macaulay of Macaulay and Associates, an Everett-based firm, was hired by the city to conduct a preliminary benefit study to determine who should be within the LID and how much the homeowners should be assessed, with the 263 lots in the study broken into three classes based on relative location to the course.

Macaulay said the study “was based on the assumption that the golf course could be subdivided into single-family home lots.”

The lots were broken into three classes, with those in class three living furthest away and in this preliminary scenario paying the least at $3,750. Those living in class two would pay $7,950 and those in class one, being closest to the course, would pay $11,850.

Homeowners would be able to pre-pay all or part of the assessment during a 30-day window if the LID is formed. It then would be a year later before the first annual assessment began.

“At the April 7 public hearing an attorney who had advised some of the residents, indicated some property owners may decide to protest or appeal the formation of the LID,” stated a city staff memo to the council.

Some homeowners questioned the value of living right on course fairways, saying they have dented cars, smashed windows and indentations in their homes’ siding. One resident said he was struck by a golf ball while mowing his lawn when it ricocheted off his lawn mower.

With the public hearing closed, the council will have time to consider whether to order an updated benefit study that would reflect current market conditions, and evaluate whether there should be changes in how some of the lots are assigned to classes as well as other related issues.

Morley said the city is still working with the consultant to determine exactly when the revised benefit study could be completed, “but that will probably be in about three months.”

According to the city memo, officials are still sifting through the questions raised in 60 pieces of written testimony and preparing answers. “We are also using this to develop a handout of frequently asked questions about the LID, the formation of the conservation easement, and other related questions,” the memo stated.

Once the revised benefit study is complete, the city can plan for a public information meeting. “A public hearing, if the council is wishing to continue ahead with the LID, would probably be after that” and after a review of the benefit study.

Staff writer Kris Hill can be reached at (425) 432-1209 (extension 5054) and khill@reporternewspapers.com


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