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Golf course could be sold but future unknown after bankruptcy

Golf carts at Painted Hills Golf Course sit locked behind a fence. (Dan Pelle)
Golf carts at Painted Hills Golf Course sit locked behind a fence. (Dan Pelle)

Painted Hills’ Chapter 11 filing lists debts of $1.4 million

The future of the Painted Hills Golf Course is up in the air after owners filed for bankruptcy.

IWILL70 Properties LLC, run by Linda and John McElhinny, listed $1.4 million in debts in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition filed in August. Most of that debt is $1.3 million owed to American West Bank and the Small Business Association for loans used to purchase the golf course in 2006.

McFore Inc., another company tied to the course and run by four members of the McElhinny family, petitioned for bankruptcy at the same time.

Former Painted Hills golf pro Tim McElhinny and his wife, Bonnie, also filed for personal bankruptcy last year, listing debts of $1.7 million. Tim McElhinny, who now works in Texas, said he quit his job last fall and doesn’t know the current financial situation of the golf course. “We really struggled as a family-owned business,” he said.

He referred further questions to his father, John McElhinny, who declined to comment through his attorney, Timothy Fischer.

“We are considering all possibilities right now, including sale of the golf course,” Fischer said. “We do have interested buyers.”

Fischer said the owners would prefer that the new buyer continue to operate the property as a golf course, but there are no guarantees.

Chester Creek has regularly flooded a portion of the golf course and Thorpe Road in the spring. In 1999 Spokane County dredged the creek hoping to alleviate the problem.

Flooding in 2010 temporarily shut down a small par-3 course next to the main nine-hole golf course, said Spokane Valley stormwater engineer Art Jenkins.

Construction of the golf course, which opened in 1989, clogged existing culverts under the road, Jenkins said. Making those functional again would have required eliminating one of the course’s parking lots.

Instead, the city of Spokane Valley in 2011 installed several culverts under Thorpe Road in a different location to keep the road from washing out. The water flowing through the culverts was directed into a swale next to the golf course.

“It was re-establishing a historic floodway,” Jenkins said. “The golf course is part of the Chester Creek flood plain.”

Water flooded onto the golf course anyway, Jenkins said.

“We worked out a solution where we worked with the property owners,” he said. “That was an effort to be realistic about flooding out there.”

The McElhinnys originally wanted the water piped back to the creek, but the city realized that wasn’t going to work largely because of elevation changes, Jenkins said.