Clark County Council approves purchase of Cedars Golf Course

Rick Bannan / [email protected]

Clark County decided to purchase approximately 118 acres of the Cedars at Salmon Creek Golf Course in an effort to protect the area’s environment.

At its August 16 meeting, Clark County Council voted unanimously to approve a purchase agreement to purchase the land, valued at approximately $2.6 million. The purchase includes two miles of frontage on Salmon Creek, 133 acre-feet of annual water rights and property along the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad.

The purchase of the golf course has been in preparation for years. In 2019, the owner approached the county about acquiring the land, said Kevin Tyler, director of public works for Clark County. Two years later, the county’s parks and lands division presented several options to council who directed staff to begin outreach efforts to determine a final acquisition plan.

Last April, the council approved the county’s six-year plan for parks, recreation and open spaces (PROS), Tyler said. The Cedars property was identified in this plan.

Clark County Parks and Lands Division Manager Rocky Houston said the county initially considered purchasing the 133 acres of golf course property. The approved sale did not include the course’s clubhouse or the property making up the course’s 10th hole.

The purchase not including the course’s 10th hole raised concerns from residents who were largely in favor of the county’s overall purchase.

Leo Van Dolson, one such resident, spoke on behalf of those with concerns. Van Dolson noted that 117 new homes in the Southeast have been sold as golf-adjacent properties in the past three years.

“People were paying high prices for some of these properties,” Van Dolson said.

He asked if it was possible for council to reconsider adding this property to the purchase. Houston said the decision would stand.

“Right now we don’t really have an opportunity to go back and try to get through this. We have what we have,” Houston said.

Houston said he believes the owners are looking to develop the rest of the land into homes on large lots.

Staff members are working on an interim management plan while the sale closes, Houston said, which he said would take about 30 days. This plan would emphasize fuel reduction, waste management and signage to indicate what is public and private property.

The property will eventually have a master plan for its future use. Although that process has yet to begin, Houston said the land near the railroad is being considered as a starting point for access for those who don’t live near the property.

The total purchase of $2,571,134 will be paid for through the county’s conservation future fund. The county also allocated $600,000 from the county’s clean water fund to meet stormwater needs, according to a staff report.

The Conservation Futures Fund is a Clark County property tax levy used to purchase properties for conservation through the county’s Legacy Lands program. The program property cannot be used for commercial development and is generally used as open space for passive recreation, Houston said. According to the program’s website, Legacy Lands may also provide critical habitat for protected species.

Tyler said the Cedars acquisition could eventually look like properties on Salmon Creek Greenway on the west side of the county.

Houston said the City of Battle Ground, whose city limits are adjacent to Cedars property, supports the county’s plan.

Clark County Councilman Gary Medvigy said the purchase is “an absolute great use of conservation money.”

“I know we’re not going to make all the residents happy. Change is awful, especially when you may have come to this area and retired, hoping to live on a golf course,” Medvigy said.

Medvigy said properties adjacent to the course do not have a binding covenant that would restrict development that may exist on the course. He said he spoke to the owners at length and noted that the existing property as a golf course was economically unfeasible.

“Because of the short season, its location and the small size of the course, it would just never be scheduled. The starting fee would never support this as a permanent entity,” Medvigy said.

Dependent land uses like golf courses and the like have disappeared across the country, he said.

“We’ve seen drive-ins disappear because land has become too valuable,” Medvigy said.

Medvigy said the purchase of the 10th hole and the clubhouse grounds proved problematic given the cost of purchasing the building.

“Buying a pavilion for $1 million isn’t really a conservation effort. It wasn’t going to go very well legally,” Medvigy said.

He is grateful that the owners approached the county with the opportunity.

“They could have sold everything and developed everything,” Medvigy said.

Advisor Richard Rylander said the purchase is a positive move.

“It may not be a 100% absolute win for the surrounding region and the owners, (but) I think it’s a substantial improvement over what could have happened,” Rylander said.

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