By Connie Ladenburg
We have a number of great parks in Pierce County and Chambers Creek Property, home of Chambers Bay Golf Course, is one of them! Nestled on the shore of the Narrows, it offers grand vistas of the islands and Puget Sound, expansive meadows and miles of trails and beach. Not a day goes by that there aren’t hundreds of people at Chambers Bay Park from all over the County walking, jogging, flying kites, running with their dogs, throwing rocks from the beach and even sometimes whale watching. The championship golf course brings tourists and golfers from not only Pierce County, but also from other parts of the country and world! The restaurant is a welcomed surprise anytime! Built for after golf refreshments, the restaurant saw an immediate increase in clientele that went beyond golfers. In fact, my husband and I often go to Chambers Grill for a snack and to enjoy the gorgeous sunsets.
This is truly the public’s park. Hundreds of people use the park! Over and over, I hear from people who share their thoughts on how grateful they are that this land has been given back to them to enjoy for years to come. That could all change.
Recently Ordinance 2017-42, the Chambers Creek Regional Park Master Site Plan, was presented to the Pierce County Council. This is to update the plan from 10 years ago.
When this land was developed there was a plan to build a golf resort/hotel that will provide rooms for daily rates. It also included event space, a new restaurant and clubhouse. The plan was to build the hotel tucked into the hillside below the current restaurant. Ordinance 2017-42 has inserted language that allows for “extended-stay” housing, which defined by State code is anything longer than 30 days and falls under landlord tenant regulations. It could be 31 days, 60 days, six months or even six years!
This “extended stay” housing results in two types of categories on this site: hotel units with daily rates and multi-family apartments units with extended stay rates (leases). I offered an amendment that took out the extended-stay language. It failed on a 4-3 vote. However, the final passage of the ordinance was held over until Sept. 12.
Let’s talk about the differences. It comes down to lodging vs. residential housing. Hotel units will likely turn over every few days, maybe up to a week at a time. These type of units result in revenue that is generated to the County and local government. It brings in a constant flow of new tourists and conference goers to spend their money at the hotel, the restaurant, the golf course, the local restaurants and other local attractions like Mt. Rainier and museums. Many will rent a car to get to these places. These visitors pay hotel-motel tax, sales tax, golf fees and admission taxes. Tourism is a revenue generator that benefits all taxpayers.
Leased apartment units will pay a lease payment likely for a year at a time that will go to the developer. They will be living onsite. They will not be tourists or conference goers. There will be no hotel-motel tax. The units will have kitchen facilities so the residents will be eating out less. And since they are residents, there will be fewer visits to other attractions if any at all. They may golf but not likely as often as those who will stay in the hotel and come purposely for golf. Tourists pay higher greens fees so the County will receive more greens fees from those that will be staying in the hotel versus in the apartment units. However, there is a cost to the county and local government to provide services to all of its residents including those who live on Chambers Bay properties i.e. emergency management, police and fire and other justice services, social services, schools, roads, public transportation, waste management and the list goes on. Residential housing is a cost to government.
A development agreement is currently being negotiated by the County Executive. If this ordinance passes, then extended-stay will be part of the negotiations. The apartment units are expected to rent for $3,000 or more per month. This makes these apartments out of reach for most of Pierce County residents – another key point. This property was funded and continues to be funded by sewer rate payers. This is truly the public’s land and their park. Our rate payers will be subsidizing these $3,000 apartments for a few to live on the public’s park land.
The council and county executive need to hear from you about what you think should be done onsite at Chambers Bay! Be sure to contact the council and county executive (see contact information below) before Sept. 12. Or come to the meeting to testify on Sept.12, County City Building, 10th floor at 3 p.m., and spread the word!
Pierce County Council
930 Tacoma Ave. S.
10th Floor Council Chambers
Tacoma, WA 98402
253-798-7777 (leave a message for all members)
Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier
930 Tacoma Ave. S.
Tacoma, WA 98402
Connie Ladenburg is a member of the Pierce County Council.