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Mount Vernon homeowners push back on plans to turn former golf course into Christian retreat

The Eaglemont Golf Course closed in 2020. New owners want to convert it to a Christian retreat.

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — The Eaglemont community was built 30 years ago as a public golf club.

A total of 277 homes surround the Eaglemont Golf Course, which closed and was resold during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, it's future sits in a bit of a sand trap.

When Gerald Baron moved to Eaglemont, it was an emerald jewel with
views of Mount Baker to Camano Island. These days, moles and weeds run rampant, the grounds are brown - the jewel that once was is cracked.

"We love being part of a golf community," Baron said. "It's just heart sickening and frustrating to see it this way."

The course closed in 2020. The property was sold to Beacon Hill Ministries, which plans to convert it to a Christian retreat.

"It's kind of like the artist formerly known as Prince. It used to be a golf course, now it's a ministry property," said Beacon Hill Executive Director Tim Langenberg.  

Homeowners disagree.

They point to the city's original ordinance when the property was permitted in 1992 which states the "public must be allowed reasonable use of the golf course." Homeowners contend the land was never intended for any other use, and they want the new owners to keep it that way.

"He bought land that was permitted to be a public golf course," argues Baron. "If he didn't know that, he certainly should have. Any change requires an amendment and is required to go through the city."

Langenberg countered, "We're just doing what we have the right to do on our property. It's absurd to think that we can't."

Beacon Ministries said the 20,000 square-foot clubhouse was extensively damaged by broken pipes earlier this year, which will cost about $750,000 to clean up. Langenberg estimates reopening the course would cost $10 million.

Langenberg maintains golf simply isn't financially feasible and there are no plans to turn back now.

"Frankly, we feel like this is where we're supposed to be," he said.

Langenberg believes his organization shouldn't be stuck paying for maintenance on a golf course it does not intend to operate. He suggested homeowners pick up the tab.

That proposal was flatly rejected.

In an email to KING 5 News, Mount Vernon City Attorney Kevin Rogerson wrote: "The City is listening to our residents’ concerns and exploring options … including retaining outside counsel to assist in analyzing the issues. While the City takes no position as to the merits, the courts have recognized that property owners in a situation like the Eaglemont Homeowners Association may have claims regarding the non-operation of the golf course. The City has reached out to the Homeowners Association for any authority it may have to support City action to mandate the resumption of the operation of a business from a property owner."

Meantime, homeowners say they're playing the long game.

"The one thing he has done for this community is bind us together like never before," said Baron. "We're not going away."

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