For 30 years, Retta McHugh would open her back gate and drive her cart past the 11th hole of the old Sun Dance Golf Course to start a round of 18.
Now, she’s envisioning a six-house cul-de-sac in place of the hole and the view of 2 1/2 houses at her back fence.
That’s because a local developer applied for permits in April to split the former course’s 88 acres into 475 lots for single-family homes. In its application, Sun Dance Meadows LLC said construction would take place over about five years and bring in at least 1,000 new residents.
“The neighbors are upset, whether they’re golfers or not,” McHugh said. “I don’t think there’s anyone who lives on the course that didn’t buy here because they were on a golf course. To have that green space on your back fence is special.”
In comments to the county, neighbors have cited concerns about the congestion on state Highway 291, strain on the Nine Mile Falls School District, loss of greenery and increased density.
The only way to get to Spokane by car is on Highway 291, and residents said commutes already are getting worse with other new developments nearby.
The application for the golf course development estimated the subdivision would create 5,500 new daily vehicle trips, and the nearest Spokane Transit Authority bus stop would be more than 3 miles south on Highway 291.
McHugh said she also is concerned about the number of children who would move into a dense area surrounded by neighbors who are mostly 55 and older.
During a community meeting in December, Brian Talbott, superintendent of the Nine Mile Falls School District, said local schools are at capacity.
Talbott told The Spokesman-Review that growth from the development could put even more strain on Lakeside High School. The district has tried and failed three times to pass bonds for improvement or replacement of the high school.
“There’s a need (for construction), especially if there’s growth,” Talbott said. “We have to get to the point where that building is safe and more educationally sound.”
McHugh said the land’s current owner, Brad West, set up meetings with community members to hear their concerns.
West purchased the golf course for $1.7 million in 2017 and initially considered a mixed-use development that might have included single-family residences, town homes, duplexes, walking trails and a park.
Although homeowners were upset by that proposal, McHugh said the prospect of keeping some green space made losing the course easier to accept.
“It’s not going to be a golf course again,” McHugh said. “I know that.”
Since developing health problems, West said he is looking to sell the property. Some are holding onto hope that the sale won’t go through, and others already are planning to move out of the area.
“I certainly don’t want that in my backyard,” homeowner George Stumph said, adding that he knows of at least six others preparing to leave if the sale is finalized.
Prospective buyer Mike Kinney applied for the permits to subdivide the property through his company, Sun Dance Meadows LLC, and said he hears the community’s concerns.
The proposed development “improves the infrastructure,” Kinney said. “There’s traffic mitigation intact that help the traffic.”
He added that the middle-income, single-family homes he’s proposing would be preferable to the number of multifamily rentals West had talked about.
Kinney said he is not sure he will get the permits to develop the area, and he might not move forward with the purchase if he doesn’t.
Kinney is no stranger to controversial developments.
In 1995, his proposal to build 179 homes on 49 acres in the Pasadena Park neighborhood near Millwood was rejected by county commissioners, and the state Supreme Court upheld the decision in 1998. Homeowners at the time said the development would quadruple housing density and destroy the area’s rural character, while commissioners said it violated the neighborhood plan.
The minimum lot size for the Nine Mile Falls development is proposed to be 5,000 square feet or about 0.11 acres. Most of the current lots are larger than 0.3 acres, and none are smaller than 0.24 acres.
The Pasadena Park development would have been less dense than the proposed one in Nine Mile Falls, and the project was only approved when modified to be a 100-lot subdivision on 39 acres. The subdivision also had the benefit of multiple routes to commute to downtown Spokane.
A public hearing on the Nine Mile Falls proposal won’t be scheduled until agencies can review additional traffic information, said Tammy Jones, a county land use planner. Until the hearing is held, the planning department will accept written comments on the proposal.
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