Will villas change the character of Chambers Bay?

Chambers Bay

TACOMA, Wash. -- The Pierce County Council has narrowly approved the master plan update for the Chambers Bay Golf Course.

he man who helped create the course is now worried about its future.

The crowning glory of the county-owned facility is the 2015 US Open, bringing thousands of visitors and millions of dollars to the local economy. The hope is to get a repeat aided by plans to build a 70-room hotel, a Tom Douglas restaurant and 70 to 130 golf villas.

The concern is whether those villas will indeed be extensions of the hotel or long-term housing? Former Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg worries the villas will become permanent rental homes. "And it's just people renting homes," said Ladenburg. "It's not going to be people who don't live there. They're going to live there."

Ladenburg is considered the father of Chambers Bay. He's worried developers are going to use his baby for the wrong purpose. Ladenburg, "I think it's bad public police to have people living in a public park."

His wife, Connie, is on the County Council and wants assurances the villas won't turn into permanent housing. A standing room only crowd came to express their concern at Tuesday's meeting.

Bernard McWallen, University Place resident, said, "Once you lose the character of a place like Chambers Bay. You won't get it back." Theresa O'Donnell, University Place resident, said, "We could have long-term residences there and that would just take away from the beauty."

But current County Executive Bruce Dammeier said that's not the intention. He said, "Let's be clear. While the villas are considered long-term, they are in no way permanent, and there's no provision for them to ever become permanent."

Ladenburg worries the the US Golf Association won't like having people living within the security perimeter of a US Open. He said, "In the game of the US Open that would be a strike against us and in this game one strike and you're out."

But Dammeier said that's not going to be the case. He said, "We believe this work doesn't hurt our chances. This may actually improve our chances."

The council voted 4-3 to stay with the current contract, which does not specifically prohibit long-term leasing of the golf villas.

No date yet on when construction may start. A lease agreement with the developer still needs to be approved.

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