Developer gets $400,000 in Columbia Park resort proposal dispute

Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldSeptember 27, 2013 

Kennewick and Richland will pay a Tri-City developer $400,000 to settle a 2-year-old dispute over a proposal to build a resort in the west end of Columbia Park.

Most of the settlement -- $215,000 -- will be paid by the cities' insurance providers, but Kennewick will pay Aaron Beasley of Tri-River Sports Facilities $185,000 from its budget, according to settlement documents.

Beasley told the Herald he wanted to take the case to trial but his attorneys convinced him to settle. He said he expects the issue still will end up in court, as he is accusing Kennewick of continuing to use his designs for future development plans for the park.

Richland and Kennewick officials said they are moving on.

"Sometimes there has to be a resolution versus spending more dollars on litigation," said Richland spokeswoman Trish Herron.

Beasley, a Pasco firefighter, is on disability leave and also is running for Pasco City Council. He sued the cities in May 2011, claiming he entered into an exclusive park development contract with Kennewick and Richland in 2006.

Beasley proposed using about 150 acres of the park west of the Edison Street entrance to build a destination resort with various amenities including batting cages, baseball fields, basketball and tennis courts, a water park and beach.

Beasley, who said he had lined up professional national athletes as investors, said the complex also would have a 3,000-seat amphitheater and a floating stage on the river.

The lawsuit claimed the cities created a task force to work with Beasley but they never helped pay for the consultants and other expenses as promised.

The cities told Beasley in April 2008 they would not honor the contract, one week before announcing a new plan for the park that resembled Beasley's proposal.

Beasley isn't the first to sue the city over development plans for the park.

Gary Long Jr., owner of the Columbia Park Golf Course, sued Kennewick in February 2007 for breaching a contract to upgrade his facility and add amenities such as an RV park near the park's main entrance. The city ended up paying Long $2.46 million to settle the case.

Kennewick City Attorney Lisa Beaton said the Long case prompted the city to look at settling Beasley's lawsuit. The council agreed to the settlement, with Councilman Bob Parks opposing it.

"I think both parties realized there was a lot of risk in the case," Beaton said. "(Settling) was a prudent choice on the part of the council."

Beasley said his case was strong and that going to trial would show how the city was discouraging private investment in the community at the expense of taxpayer dollars.

"(My attorneys) didn't want to take that risk," he said.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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