PT OKs lease for golf course

Changes yet to be accepted by group

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council has approved a lease for new management of the city’s golf course, but it’s unclear if the course’s backers also will accept the plan.

After lengthy discussion Monday, council members unanimously approved a new lease for the golf course to be managed by a new nonprofit group, Friends of the Port Townsend Golf Park, but last-minute changes to the language of the lease have yet to be accepted by the group.

At issue was when the city would be able to notify the Friends that certain holes on the course would have to be relocated to accommodate a housing development the city hopes to build along the Blaine Street side of the property.

The language first presented to the council stated: “Once the City funding is secured for the housing permitting and development, the City and Friends shall mutually develop a sequencing and implementation plan, which will provide the Friends with a minimum of two years to make course changes while at the same time keeping the course operational and open to the public during that period.”

But council members were concerned that funding could not be secured for such a project two years ahead of time, effectively making it impossible for the city to meet the terms of the lease.

“No funding mechanism I’ve ever heard of allows for a two-year lead time,” Mayor David Faber said.

Conversely, board members for the Friends said they were concerned about the city ordering a move of two of the course’s holes — a potentially lengthy and costly operation — for a housing project that never actually materializes.

“You have your worries, we have our worries,” said board member David Peterson. “Our worry is we’re given notice to move this and there is no housing project.”

Council members voted to change the language so the implementation of a site plan would trigger notification that the hole relocation process would have to begin.

Council members also changed language referring to the housing project from “permanently affordable” housing to simply housing, noting that market-rate units would likely be needed at the site to support affordable units.

The lease would have the Friends take over administration of the course Jan. 1, and board members were eager to get the lease signed so they could begin hiring, purchasing equipment and otherwise preparing to start operations.

Representatives of the Friends did not immediately respond to request for comment Tuesday.

The language change was the one sticking point in what was otherwise described by both the city and the Friends as a collaborative and friendly effort to draft a mutually beneficial lease.

“I think the last week working with staff illustrates the kind of collaborative, trustful relationship we’ve developed,” Peterson said.

The lease would have the Friends take over the course for 22 years, with the first two years as a development period for the Friends to develop a business plan and better understand operations. The lease would be renegotiated after the first two years.

The agreement is the end of a long and often emotionally fraught process during which the city examined potentially repurposing the entire course for other uses.

The city’s course had been struggling for years, and last year the city began a public feedback process to explore other uses for the 58-acre property.

Supporters of keeping the property as a golf course formed the Friends of the Port Townsend Golf Park as a nonprofit organization to administer the property, keeping the golf course intact but also including other amenities desired by the city and the community.

The lease contains language that the city and the Friends will work together to find locations for additional amenities at the course such as a playground, dog park and possibly moving the bike nonprofit The Recyclery to the property.

Additional walking trails will be cut through the property, and efforts to increase public use outside of golf are included in the performance metrics agreement with the city.

The city also wants to include a housing project along one side of the course that has no deed restrictions. But doing so requires holes 5 and 6 of the course to be relocated.

Peterson said at the meeting it was hard to say how much such a move would cost as there are several variables such as grading, relocating sprinklers and growing grass that can vary depending on where the holes are relocated.

As a new organization, the Friends don’t yet have the funds for such a project, and the question of who would pay for the move — the Friends, the city or both — remains open.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at peter.segall@peninsuladailynews.com.

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