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Spokane Valley won’t bid on Painted Hills

Thu., Sept. 5, 2013

Private group wants to buy property, continue site as golf course

Spokane Valley officials will not be on the steps of the Spokane County Courthouse next week when the Painted Hills Golf Course is auctioned off to satisfy bankruptcy debts. A divided City Council narrowly voted Tuesday not to participate in the sale after members of the community stepped forward to say they have a plan to save the golf course.

Everyone who spoke during Tuesday’s meeting asked the city to stay out of it. At previous meetings, residents pleaded with the city to buy it.

Resident Mark Paxton said he represents a group trying to buy the property and run it as a golf course. He asked the council not to get involved. “I’ve been trying to purchase the property since April,” he said.

City Parks and Recreation Director Mike Stone has said the city could buy the course and turn it into a park. Paxton said talk of putting in amenities like volleyball courts on the property “to me is crazy.” The city already has plenty of park space, he said.

Resident Tom Kendall said he was a member of the Painted Hills Men’s Club. “We’d like to come back,” he said. “I would encourage the opportunity of private investment first.”

Councilman Arne Woodard said his main concern was that the course should not be developed. “That has to stay as open land somehow,” he said.

“This decision is hard for me,” said Councilman Dean Grafos. His daughter is a golf pro and used to play at Painted Hills, Grafos said. If the city bought Painted Hills, it would be difficult to operate it as a golf course because of the cost and expertise required. The city is also working to develop the Appleway Trail and an expanded Balfour Park, he said.

Grafos also said he wasn’t sure the city should bid against the private sector. “At the time this came before the council, there were no other bidders,” he said.

Councilman Chuck Hafner agreed that the city has plenty of other projects on its plate. “I would hate to take a lot of our resources into a golf course,” he said.

Mayor Tom Towey joined Woodard in voting to bid for Painted Hills. “The more options and the more flexibility we have as a city, the better off we are,” Towey said.

The votes of Grafos, Hafner and Councilman Rod Higgins against purchasing the golf course carried the day, however. Councilman Gary Schimmels was absent and councilman Ben Wick recused himself from the discussion because he is related to the general manager of Spokane County Water District 3, which is owed money by the property owners.

In other business, the council heard presentations from 15 economic development and social services agencies that have applied for the city’s annual outside agency funding. The city has $150,000 available, and requests total more than $263,000. The council will vote Sept. 24 on allocating funds.

The economic development agencies seeking money are Greater Spokane Inc., Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce, Spokane Area Workforce Development Council, Spokane River Forum, Spokane Valley Arts Council, Spokane Valley Heritage Museum and Valleyfest. The social service agencies seeking funding are Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Inland Northwest, Children’s Home Society of Washington, Coalition of Responsible Disabled, Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council, Hearth Homes, Spokane Guilds School Foundation, Spokane Valley Partners and the YWCA. Requests ranged from $1,500 to $50,000.

The council also heard their first presentation on the proposed property tax levy for 2014. Finance Director Mark Calhoun said he was recommending that the city not take its allowed 1 percent property tax increase. The city has not taken the increase since 2010.

Based on current information the levy would drop a little over a penny to $1.56 per $1,000 in assessed home value, Calhoun said. “All of these figures are based on estimates,” he said.

More exact numbers will be available from Spokane County later this month, Calhoun said. The council will vote on a property tax ordinance in October.

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