MLT City Council votes 4-2 to rent Ballinger Park Clubhouse to senior center

The clubhouse has been in use by private parties since the golf course was closed in November.
The Clubhouse at Ballinger Park

In a 4-2 vote Monday night, the Mountlake Terrace City Council approved a plan for the operators of the Mountlake Terrace Senior Center to relocate to and manage the clubhouse at Ballinger Park, the former Ballinger Lake Golf Course. The senior group plans to begin moving into the 6,800-square-foot city facility at 23300 Lakeview Drive on Nov. 15.

“It’s a little scary, but real exciting too,” said the senior group’s Executive Director Mike Cooper after the vote.

The seniors will lease the building from the city for $1,500 a month plus utility costs beginning on Jan. 1, 2014; the lease will be for five years. The agreement will include provisions for the rental payments to decrease if the senior group completes certain capital improvements to the facility, and allows the group to rent out the building’s Lakeview Room or other amenities to private parties and events.

While the clubhouse must remain open for public use during regular operating hours, the senior group will be allowed to operate its programs on an ongoing basis there. The city will reserve the right to use the Lakeview Room for 120 hours a year for meetings or events.

After City Councilmember Seaun Richards recused himself (Richards serves as the President of the Mountlake Terrace Senior Center Board of Directors), the remaining six councilmembers debated the merits of turning the keys of the Ballinger Clubhouse over to the senior center. Mayor Jerry Smith and Mayor Pro Tem Laura Sonmore, the two dissenters, cited concerns that the seniors may not be able to meet the financial requirements of the lease.

“This is a senior group; this is a volunteer organization, and I want to make sure that the seniors are getting services they desperately need, and they’re not so focused on having to make money, having to volunteer,” Sonmore said. “I want them to enjoy what they have. I want them to get services.”

Among the council supporters of the plan there was even some concern that the senior center may lack the resources to manage the city-owned clubhouse building. “I know that I was worried that you won’t have enough people, because it will take a lot of people to run this, a lot of organization power,” Councilmember Kyoko Matsumoto Wright said to senior group members in the council chambers.

“I want to see the seniors in there, doing a good job, being very successful,” Wright continued. “I just would not want to see anything happen that is going to not make this a reality.”

The lease will include language that defines what happens if the senior center is unable to meet the monthly rent payments to the city; though yet to be written, the clause is likely to allow the seniors to continue to be a tenant of the building, but they would have to renegotiate a new lease agreement with the city, and have to give over the right to rent out the facility to private groups, losing any potential income received from those rentals.

“I appreciate, and am confident in the default system that would provide a backup plan for the seniors,” said Councilmember Rick Ryan.

Councilmembers Bryan Wahl and Doug McCardle were the strongest supporters of the plan, stating that having the senior center take over management of the clubhouse worked for both the city and the seniors. Wahl noted that the senior group will be able to expand its programming while at the clubhouse, while still allowing the facility to be open to the public. McCardle called the agreement “a good, solid lease.”

— Story and photo by Doug Petrowski

  1. Who were the two and why did they vote against it? Seemed like a good idea when I heard about it a while ago. Curious.

  2. Ah, the article explains it. The mayor and pro tem voted no. Makes sense. Good article. Tough vote. Glad to see healthy debate.

  3. I am excited to have a new, rentable event space in Mountlake Terrace. I can’t wait to see the Lakeview room.

  4. It has been a long road to this conclusion but I believe the Council has made the right decision and I look forward to being part of a team that helps make the Mountlake Terrace Senior Center a major player in South Snohomish County. I also believe this move is best for the community and will encourage economic development to the city.

  5. I have to wonder:

    If Mr. Cooper had said to the Council ‘It’s a little scary.’ BEFORE the vote was held, would the vote outcome have been different?

    When he was before the Council, he is not reported to have shown fear, or even concern:

    But Cooper laid out his case that the senior center would be able to operate in the black during its first year at the facility. “In today’s numbers, real numbers, and adding in the user fees, our projected revenue is about $6,000 a year higher than our projected expenses,” Cooper told the city council. “

    What’s scary about making a profit using real numbers?

    Unless, of course, they’re not real numbers.

  6. The details of a lease to the Senior Center group are all important in preserving the flexibility our city may need at some near future point. That said, I wish the Senior Center group success as they seek to find renters in a tough market.

  7. The city has projected General Fund revenue increases, which, in the next breath, we were told not to expect. This intentionally leaves the impression that it can simultaneously sustain paying back rent, paying current rent and supporting vital services through the next biennium.

    Although I understand the long standing desire for a larger senior center facility, I hope that the lease has some provisions which would allow the city to end the lease if a more important need arises.

    Mr. Cooper is right, but neither he nor apparently our council, seem to understand just how scary the next couple years could be. We’ve already tossed $2 million down one of their rabbit holes (borrowing 5 years rent). When will they quit pretending that the economic development calvary is coming to bail us out of their misjudgments. Just because they are stuck on a certain narrative doesn’t make it so, especially when their own numbers don’t support it.

  8. I for one am excited for the opportunity to move our Senior Center to a much bigger,modern place at the north end of a beautiful passive park. We have been through three tries for a civic center and the senior center and its members from 60ish to early 90’s deserve a nice place to have meals, crafts,important health services, trips and much more. My folks have passed away but I would have been proud to have them become members. My husband Gerald and I have lived here since 1976 and want nothing more than to continue to live here. I started as a volunteer at the center in 2009 and am no part time staff. I love these members like they are my own family and want the best we can give them. They deserve it.

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