It was close, but Spokane Valley’s parks and recreation director couldn’t quite sink the putt Tuesday.
In a 3-2 vote, the City Council decided not to move forward the plans to purchase the now-closed Painted Hills Golf Course. The majority of the council said it was swayed by testimony that a private firm was planning to be present at an upcoming trustee’s sale public auction and make an offer on the 91 acres in south Spokane Valley.
“We already have a tremendous amount of park space,” said Mark Paxton, who added that the city should not bid against private business and that any effort to covert the land for disc golf, volleyball or car shows “is crazy.”
While such plans would have been in the future and after considerable public input, Parks and Recreation Director Mike Stone’s objective at Tuesday’s council meeting was to get the governing body to commit to buying the land.
“This is likely the last large piece of property that’s available in our city,” Stone said. He added, however, that it would cost the city about $150,000 a year to maintain it. Even more, he said, if it were to be kept up to golf-course standards.
Chuck Simpson said, however, the land would be better off in the hands of a private party.
“”If it becomes city property, then the tax revenue is lost,” he said. “If we can get private people to buy, that’s great.”
Tom Kendall said, no matter who acquires Painted Hills, it should not be changed.
“It should be kept as a golf course,” he said.
Painted Hills operated as a nine-hole course, that included a short par-3 course and a driving range before its previous owners filed for bankruptcy. When the issue came before the council several weeks ago, it didn’t appear that there were any interested buyers in the land, some council members said.
“When the discussion of this came up, there were no private people involved,” Council Member Arne Woodard said, adding that he wanted to have the land “open to all options.”
Council Member Dean Grafos, whose daughter is a golf pro, said that if the city bought the land, it would be “very difficult” to maintain Painted Hills as a golf course.
“Is it appropriate for the city to bid against the private sector?” Grafos asked. “When it came before us, there were no other bidders.”
Council Member Rod Higgins said he would “hate to see it off the tax rolls.”
Council Member Chuck Hafner agreed.
“I’m thinking of road preservation, looking at law enforcement and looking at a lot of situations before us,” Hafner said. “We’re not in the business of running a golf course.”
Mayor Tom Towey said there were “more options” ahead if the city purchased the land.
“This is a piece of property that we will never see again,” he said.
With Deputy Mayor Gary Schimmels not present and Council Member Ben Wick recused from the meeting – Wick has family ties to those owned money by the land owners – it came down to Towey and Woodard voting for the motion to pursue the property and Grafos, Hafner and Higgins voting no.