The gates are locked and the grass is brown. Now the fate of the Painted Hills Golf Course is sealed: It will be sold in a trustee’s auction on the steps of the Spokane County Courthouse on Sept. 13.
The golf course, at 4402 S. Dishman-Mica Road, did not open this year after the owners filed for bankruptcy in August 2012. The course is being sold to satisfy a debt of $797,000 to American West Bank.
Bankruptcy filings show that John and Linda McElhinny and their son and daughter-in-law, Tim and Bonnie McElhinny, also owe $559,000 to the Small Business Association, $55,000 in back property taxes and more than $8,800 to Spokane County Water District 3. The Spokane County Assessor’s Office values the property at $1.4 million.
Last week, residents living near the golf course attended the Spokane Valley City Council meeting to plead with the council to save the course, which is just inside the city limits, after they saw a notice of sale tacked up on the door of the club house.
Don Meier lives about two blocks from the course. He and his wife both used to play there and he said it was a nice course. “She’d go there after work,” he said.
Painted Hills has a nine-hole regulation course and a small par-3 nine-hole course. Right now only some of the fairways are being watered, he said. “All the greens are burned up.”
When he spoke before the council he asked them to give the course “top consideration.”
“We need to preserve it,” he said. “There’s an opportunity to provide a valued asset to the community.”
It’s the only golf course in Spokane Valley, and it makes sense for the city to own it, said Gerald Snow. “We need recreation here in Spokane Valley,” he said.
The two men say they and their wives now have to travel to Spokane, Liberty Lake or North Idaho to golf. Meier worries that a developer will buy the property, and it will no longer be operated as a golf course.
“Once it gets on the courthouse steps, you’ve lost all control,” he said. “We just want to preserve the character of the Valley.”
But purchasing and maintaining a golf course is an expensive proposition, one that Mayor Tom Towey doesn’t seem eager to take on. Towey said he’s not sure that it makes sense for the city to buy a business that failed.
“I don’t know if it’s feasible for us to go in there and make it work,” he said.
Towey said the issue would be looked at, but he said he doesn’t anticipate the council will deliberate on it in the short time available.
“The city has to respond to the citizens’ interests,” he said. “I think it’s worth looking into, but I have no idea what the complications are going to be.”