Thursday, December 14, 2006

Golf course could cost Cape up to $40 million

By Don Ruane
The News Press

Buying The Golf Club and turning it into a city-owned golf course or park could cost Cape Coral between $23 million and $40 million, a new city study revealed Wednesday.

The course and buildings need a major overhaul, according to the report, which can be viewed on Restoration accounts for $8 million to $10 million of the estimated costs.

The course, which closed in July, and its infrastructure are in "extremely poor condition" and have "virtually zero value as a golf course," according to a report from the city's economic development office attached to the study.

A review by the Coral Oaks Golf Course staff said restoring the course and facilities will require replacing the grass on fairways and greens, new maintenance equipment and golf- course supplies such as flagsticks and golf carts. Computers, office furniture, kitchen equipment, golf carts and even tables and chairs are needed for the buildings.

Two appraisals are being conducted for the city to determine the land's value should it be used for residential development or for a golf course. The appraisals should be ready in about 90 days.

Previous appraisals listed the 175-acre property's value at between $28 million and $30 million.

The report could be scheduled for discussion as soon as the Jan. 8 city council workshop, Mayor Eric Feichthaler said.

The discussion figures to draw a crowd based on past events and because of all the homes surrounding the course.

Residents turned back the Lee County School District's attempt to buy the property for $26 million earlier this year. The district wanted to build five schools there, but residents wanted to keep their golf- course views and property values intact.

"They are still very emotional. I hear from them daily," said Mary Neilson, who organized neighbors and created her own Web site — — once the school district's offer became known.

She expects many of them to turn out again when the report is scheduled for discussion.

"We're in season now. We'll probably have 20 percent more people who can attend. They'll be there," Neilson said. "I'm pleased they're moving forward on the issue."

Feichthaler said he hopes the land can become a city-operated golf course and that a private developer might be able to add an attractive resort in the present clubhouse area. He would fight attempts to convert the land to residences, Feichthaler said.

Councilman Tom Hair, who adopted the course as his major project after he was appointed in September to fill the seat of the late Councilman Jim Jeffers, said he wants to create a central park to serve all the residents, not just those who golf.

"We'll never be presented with this opportunity again," Hair said. "It comes down to serving the most people."

City staff who prepared the report ruled out a golf course if the new appraisals reflect the previous ones.

"If the appraisal indicates a value of $25 million to $28 million, not including costs to restore the property, staff believes the expense might be too high to use the land as a golf course, assuming approximately 20,000 golfing residents and 60,000 rounds of golf per year," the report said. "Instead, staff believes the land could better serve the entire public if it were developed as a public park. In order to be financially acceptable as a golf course, staff would consider a price of $12 million to $14 million."

It's premature to talk about price, said Scott Siler, a partner in the course.

"Until the appraisals are done everything is speculative," Siler said.

No other offers for the course are on the table at this point, Siler said.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Letter to the Editor from Tom Hair

Dear News-Press Editor,

I am pleased with the thoroughness of the Golf Club Feasibility Study. City staff has done an excellent job of addressing each of the scenarios I brought forward to City Council back in October. After reviewing the document only two possibilities stand out in my mind.

The first is that we buy the Golf Club outright and turn it into the Central Park of Cape Coral for all time. We will never again be presented with a situation to buy 175 acres of parkland located near the population center of gravity of Cape Coral at a price commensurate with parkland use. Council just increased, by a factor of four, the amount of parkland required per 1000 residents. Add to this our ever-growing population and we have a clearly defined need for additional recreation facilities. You might ask why not a golf course, and the simple answer jumps right out of the report; a golf course may serve around 20,000 residents while a central park will serve all 165,000 of us. It is simply a case of doing the most good for the most people.

The second is that we provide incentives, possibly through a land use change, to allow a private resort company to buy and operate the Golf Club as a golf and mixed-use resort. The previous owners could not turn a profit as currently zoned, so we have no alternative but to provide an avenue by which a new owner can. This is the most straightforward solution and has little financial impact on the city, but at the loss of being able to write our own community destiny for the land.

One final comment concerning the last line of exhibit one; annual operating profit and loss is a bit of a misnomer when considering investment in parks and recreation. The city has a duty to provide recreational facilities to all its residents and is budgeted accordingly. Any monies spent or debt incurred is an investment in this obligation… parks and recreation is not a profit center for the city. Additionally, I do not suggest that if we buy the Golf Club that we spend beyond our current parks and recreation budget, where possible, but to redirect that budget to attain this long-range goal of a Central Park of Cape Coral that would instantly become the centerpiece of our city parks system.


Thomas W. Hair
Councilmember, District One

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Family Time

Good Evening,

I have posted the Golf Club Feasibility Study prepared by city staff on our web site This report was prepared at request of the mayor and council. Councilman Tom Hair will ask that The Golf Club be placed on the agenda for discussion possibly as early as the Monday, January 8th meeting. Check the web site again after the 1st of the year. I will post the date and time of the meeting you will need to attend.

Please respect the mayor and councils family time during their Christmas break. Thank you.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year,
Best Wishes,

City of Cape Coral - Golf Club Feasibility Study

(Click on Link above for a printable pdf version)

City of Cape Coral

Golf Club Feasibility Study

December 12, 2006

Executive Summary

The City Council directed staff to prepare a report on the feasibility of three scenarios for the Golf Club:

1) City purchase the entire property and operate it as a park or a golf course;

2) City sell surplus lands to help in financing purchase of the entire property;

3) Public-private partnership in which the private sector would develop a hotel-resort, and the city would own and operate the golf course.

In addition to these scenarios, in this report staff is presenting information on a fourth scenario:

4) A fully private-sector solution, in which a developer would purchase the property and operate both the golf course and a resort development.

The following table summarizes the impact of the four scenarios.

Exhibit 1



100% City



100% City,

Surplus Lands


Pvt. Resort/

City Golf

# 4

100% Private Investor/

City Incentives

Tax Revenue





Facility Type

Golf Course or Park

Golf Course or Park

Major Resort or Golf Course

Major Resort & Golf Course

Number of Residents Served

Golf Course: 20,000+

Park: 160,000

Golf Course: 20,000+

Park: 160,000

Golf course: 20,000+

Tourists and Local Events


Tourists and Local Events

Cost to City

$15-30 million for acquisition;

$8-10 million for restoration

$15-30 million for acquisition, minus profit on land sales;

$8-10 million restoration

Some govt. incentives

(to be negotiated);

discounted land cost

Government incentives

(to be negotiated)

Non-tax Economic Impact





City Image





Annual Operating profit/(loss)





Golf Club History & Status

The Golf Club is an historic facility in Cape Coral. While it is often presented as a Cape Coral landmark, and while it was most recently open to the public, it is owned solely by private-sector investors and received no city government funds.

The properties surrounding the Golf Club and the adjoining residential condominiums known as Banyan Trace enjoy the tranquil golf course environment and may have higher property appraisals due to this amenity, but they do not have an equity or ownership interest in the golf course property.

In recent years, the Golf Club and the parking lot immediately west of it were acquired by Mr. Scott Siler and partners. They made some capital improvements and operated the course for several years. While the clubhouse provided a retail shop, a cocktail lounge and luncheon meal-service, the larger gathering rooms and food-service on the second floor were neither renovated nor opened for business due to code considerations. A portion of the office space on the main floor is occupied by the sales office of the Banyan Trace condominium development.

Early in 2006, the Siler investor group announced that it was losing money operating the golf course and began searching for buyers. One of their first prospects was the Lee County Public Schools, which withdrew its offer to purchase in the face of public opposition. Mr. Siler reports two other potential buyers withdrew their offers because of concern about the time and uncertainty associated with changing the future land-use and/or zoning so as to allow larger resort development.

As of December, 2006, the golf course, closed for many months, has deteriorated to a point beyond rehabilitation. The investors have sold off the irrigation heads, all hardware, golf carts, etc. associated with golf course operations; and have also divested the restaurant and bar fixtures and equipment. The investors have maintained a small business office on the property.

For details on the current conditions and on issues related to refurbishing the course for golf, please refer to Appendix 2, “Coral Oaks Staff Report.”

Scenario One

City purchases entire property outright and operates golf course.

City staff reviewed the two appraisals commissioned by the School Board of Lee County last year. The two assessments were completed on April 29, 2005 and May 10, 2005. The land was appraised as a residential use as its highest and best use and was valued at $28,030,000 and $30,655,000. Additionally, another appraisal was completed on July 21, 2006 for Mr. Siler. The value was again determined to be $28,030,000. Mr. Siler has said that he believes the highest and best use to be residential development.

Pursuant to the City Council’s direction, the Real Estate Division has ordered two appraisals. The assumption of one appraisal will be that the highest and best use is residential. The other appraisal will assume the highest and best use is as golf course/park land. We anticipate the appraisals will both be completed in about 90 days.

If the appraisal indicates a value of $25-million to $28-million, not including costs to restore the property, staff believes the expense might be too high to use the land as a golf club, assuming approximately 20,000 golfing residents and 60,000 rounds of golf per year. Instead, staff believes the land could better serve the entire public if it were developed as a public park. In order to be financially acceptable as a golf course, staff would consider a price of $12-million to $14-million.


To illustrate the potential for financing costs for purchase by the city, the Financial Services Department completed a review and determined that a $15.8-million dollar loan would cost about $25-million dollars over the course of a 20 year loan ($1.26-million per year). A $30-million dollar, 20 year loan would cost about $47-million (about $2.3-million per year).

Once a final purchase price is determined, the Financial Services Department can make recommendations to the Council on financing options.

Costs to City

A major factor when considering this scenario is the tax ramifications if the property is taken off the tax roll. Below is a table which lists the taxes levied both in 2005 and 2006:

Exhibit 2



Ad Valorem Taxes

Market Assessed Value



Total Tax Amount



City of Cape Coral

Solid Waste-MSTU



City of Cape Coral

General Funds



City of Cape Coral

Debt Service



Non Ad Valorem Taxes

City of Cape Coral

Stormwater Annual



This scenario creates an estimated net operating loss, excluding debt service. Please refer to Appendix 1, “City Golf Course Operating Cost Analysis.”

Scenario Two

Sell surplus city lands in other locations, including land slated for future park use, to offset the cost of purchasing the Golf Club property.

Currently the City owns numerous parcels which have not been developed. While they are vacant, most of these parcels are deed restricted or have already been determined to have a “public use.” Some “public uses” include parcels needed for lift stations, park land, and other uses. For this report, the full list of these owned parcels has not been examined, but further detailed investigation is possible.

Upon speaking with the Real Estate Division, Parks and Recreation Department, and the Public Works Department, it was determined that the only surplus land currently available, and not determined to have a public use, is located in phase 4 of Festival Park. The City owns 44 properties: 13 parcels are vacant waterfront, 29 parcels are vacant off-water, and two are improved properties off-water. This land might not be necessary for parks use if the Zemel pre annexation agreement is fully implemented. If other properties in Festival Park were sold as surplus (in phases, 1, 2, or 3) then this might negatively impact condemnation proceedings currently underway (primarily in phase 3).

This scenario creates an estimated net operating loss, excluding debt service. Please refer to Appendix 1, “City Golf Course Operating Cost Analysis.”

Scenario Three

Change future land use/zoning to allow development of a resort condominium/hotel project, in exchange for selling the remaining golf course to the City at a reduced price.

This option would develop the property into a destination location which could include retail, hotel, and restaurant opportunities, but also maintain the golf course as a public facility. This scenario could create private sector jobs and a new private-sector tourism asset.

In the event the Council chose this option without further consideration of other options, the Economic Development Office could be the point for marketing the property and finding investors to develop the resort project. It is possible that even with the golf course available as a resort amenity at no expense to the developer, some city financial incentives might be required to make the project feasible.

This public-private partnership could yield a prime asset with a spa, meeting space, a high-class championship golf course and some resort retail. In this scenario, the developer would sell the golf course land to the City, which would restore and operate the facility.

This scenario creates an estimated net operating loss, excluding debt service. Please refer to Appendix 1, “City Golf Course Operating Cost Analysis.”

Scenario Four

Private sector investors purchase the entire property, develop a resort facility, perhaps with city incentives, and operate the golf course without any further city involvement.

The forth scenario is similar to Scenario three, but assumes that a developer will purchase and develop the property, build a hotel, spa, and/or conference center and operate the golf operations. This option would likely require economic development incentives, which can also provide the council with leverage to assure the size, style and completion of the resort property development.

In this scenario the city’s investment would be limited to incentives. In addition, since it would be privately owned, the entire property would be fully taxable. It could create a major tourism asset including top-quality golf, equal to the best in southwest Florida, and preserve the amenity the surrounding residents currently enjoy.

The Economic Development Office is in a position to discuss this scenario with investors and to design an incentive package for the Council’s consideration.


In preparation of this report, the Economic Development Office and Parks and Recreation Department have toured the facility and carefully evaluated its condition and its prospects for development under any scenario. Appended are:

1) City Golf Course Operating Cost Analysis;

2) Coral Oaks Staff Report;

3) Economic Development Office Report.

Appendix 1

City Golf Course Operating Cost Analysis

Operational revenues would vary as compared to Coral Oaks due to the difference in the way the course would most likely be structured. Coral Oaks was built as a reasonably priced golf facility which offered limited amenities, a small club house, small locker room facilities, and limited food offerings (hot dogs, chicken fingers, sandwiches, small bar.) The Golf Club could be managed as a more upscale golf facility which would assume more amenities including a full restaurant with a bar, luxury locker rooms, and the new or restored club house with possible adjoining hotel and retail.

Club passes would also affect revenues. Some multi-course cities charge separate rates for each course while others charge one rate. For this revenue estimate, it is assumed that one pass would enable the user to golf at both courses. This assumption, if changed or altered, would impact the revenues. Total annual revenues are estimated to be between $1.6 million and $1.75 million.

Expenses would be similar to Coral Oaks. There would be economies of scale if the City would operate both golf courses. Some savings could be realized by purchasing fertilizer and other consumables at a higher volume. The major costs would be labor. It should be assumed that both golf courses would be directed by one Golf Course General Manager and one Greens Superintendent (currently employed by the City.) Additional management positions would be: one Assistant Golf Professional, one Assistant Superintendent for the Golf Club (Coral Oaks currently has one of each, already), along with a full staff.

When comparing acreage, the Golf Club is approximately 50% larger in mowable land (120 acres versus 80 acres at Coral Oaks.) In total acreage, the Golf Club is 178 and Coral Oaks is 128. This increase in acreage might equate into higher staff costs and subsequent equipment costs.

Another major factor is the interfund service payment. This transfer is a significant portion of the expenses and changes each year.

Assuming the interfund payment stays consistent, the annual total operating expense would approximate $2-million.

These numbers indicate that the second golf course would operate at a loss of $250,000 to $400,000 a year.

Appendix 2

Coral Oaks Staff Report

Allen Manguson, Golf Professional Manager and Jim Foster, Golf Course Superintendent, inspected the Golf Club property and buildings. In their combined opinion, the Golf Club is in need of complete re-grassing of all greens, tees, roughs and fairways, and new sand in bunkers. The existing vegetation is comprised of a variety of weeds including broadleaf, woody ornamentals and goose grass. Bermuda turf currently exists on about 40 percent of the property. If the city wishes to pursue purchasing the property, it is recommended that a site visit be conducted by USGA Greens agronomists to further evaluate the Golf Club’s condition.

The golf course is in need of irrigation upgrades and repairs. Mr. Siler reported that the golf course was completely renovated in 2001 by Chip Powell, Golf Course Architect, with the construction completed by Highlands Golf Construction. Mr. Siler also stated that the renovation included all new underground irrigation and irrigation heads.

The irrigation is a hydraulic system. It was found that the hydraulic system irrigation control boxes were recently removed and all lines to those controllers were cut at ground level. If the Golf Club is purchased, the irrigation system should be upgraded to an electrical system. This would improve the maintenance operations. The irrigation pump station was not part of the renovation process and its age cannot be determined. The pump’s ability to function is in question and could not be tested because of missing controllers and sprinkler heads. Finally, some additional irrigation equipment may be needed to ensure that new turf would flourish in all extreme weather conditions.

The golf course maintenance building and compound are antiquated and debilitated. Even if the facility were to pass inspection, it might not be usable. There are gasoline pumps and tanks on site but staff could not confirm if they are in working order.

The building has been stripped of all merchandise displays, kitchen equipment, computers, dining room furniture and office furniture. Mr. Siler reported the upstairs portion of the building has not been opened; they did not meet code standards. The second floor of the building offers beautiful views of the golf course and is divided into four sections: two meeting and/or dining areas, a large kitchen area and large storage area. The upstairs kitchen equipment has not been utilized since the reopening in 2001.

To reopen the Golf Club to full scale golf operations, significant resources would be required. Golf course maintenance would need an equipment pallet, fertilizers, fungicides and all chemicals. All golf course supplies would be needed, including flags, flagsticks, cups, coolers, benches, rakes, tee signs and tee markers. The administrative area would need computers and office furniture. The golf shop would need merchandise and displays, computers, point of sale stations with RecTrac, furniture, office supplies, scorecards and golf carts. The food and beverage operation would need all new kitchen equipment, and operating equipment, such as point of sale stations, utensils, dishes and tables and chairs.

In total, the City could expect to spend between $8-million and $10-million dollars for total restoration, if costs do not escalate as in the past few years. If trends persist, staff would expect an increase each year to be approximately 15%.

By way of illustration, New Smyrna Beach, Florida is currently completing renovation of its municipal golf course at a cost of $2.8-million. It is scheduled to reopen on December 15, 2006. They began their renovation project on April 17, under the direction of Bobby Weed design in Jacksonville Florida. The design expense is $220,000 and the construction is being completed by Southern Golf from Tifton, Georgia at a cost of $2-million. The City is using its departmental resources to complete renovations to the clubhouse, landscaping and signage at a cost of $550,000.

As further illustration, the City of Plantation, Florida purchased a golf course in 1999 that was 50 years old and had been shut down by a private owner in 1997. The golf course was completely renovated, and the existing building was torn down and replaced. The entire project was approximately $10-million. This price does not include the cost of the property which was approximately $7.3-million.

Appendix 3

Economic Development Office Report

Economic Development Director Mike Jackson toured the Golf Club facility for about 90 minutes on November 1, 2006. In his opinion, the course and its infrastructure (greens, irrigation, structures, parking lots, etc.) are all in extremely poor condition and that the course and its buildings, as they are today, have virtually zero value as a golf course with ancillary amenities. He believes this may be positive for private sector developers, particularly if they envision major large-scale development. Such a project would likely require a larger footprint than now exists for hotel/restaurant/retail uses, which would mean reconfiguration of the property. These developers would contemplate pricing to be at a “salvage” rate.

The major concern for an investor is return on investment.

In Mr. Jackson’s opinion, unless the price of the property drops very significantly, there is no likelihood that an investor could achieve acceptable returns without a partnership with the city through an incentive package that will both facilitate the development and – through “clawbacks” – ensure its completion.

At this time the underlying future land use is recreation. This land use category does not provide for residential components, including even condos, hotels, etc. The current zoning – R3 – is not consistent with the land use. The parking lot area west of the golf club property carries a future land use and a zoning category of multi-family. Therefore, without modifications of either the land use or the zoning, development as a resort would be virtually impossible.

To facilitate development, the city could initiate land use or zoning changes. The benefit would be that the property would be more quickly developable, reducing developer risk. The downside is that the property with entitlements might increase its market value, causing higher project costs. If the city initiated these entitlement changes, it would be of greatest benefit to investors if the changes provide maximum flexibility throughout the property. If the changes were not sufficient, or were too restrictive, the property might be rendered undevelopable.

Many questions will be asked by interested investors and developers including:

  • Is there sufficient area for building, parking, and/or a structure that can house a conference center and/or a large hotel?
  • What issues must be resolved in order to achieve neighborhood support?
  • What certainty can be created around permitting issues?
  • Are additional incentives available from other government units, including the Lee County Tourism Development Authority.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Response To Email

From: Terrance Stewart
Sent: Sun 11/19/2006 9:36 AM
To: Eric Feichthaler; Dolores Bertolini; Tom Hair; Alex LePera; Alan Boyd; Timothy Day; Richard Stevens; Mickey Rosado
Cc: Stephen H. Pohlman; Carl Schwing; Michael Kalvort; Michael Jackson; Dawn Andrews
Subject: Re: Golf Club Maintenance

Ms. Watson,

At the request of the Mayor, I am responding to your inquiry.

It appears from your message that you are under the impression that the city is negotiating to purchase the Golf Club site. That is not what City Council instructed us to do. At the direction of council, I am working in conjunction with Council Member Bertolini to engage in discussions with the poperty owners to determine what they propose to do with the property, and if it is to be sold, at what price. Council may at some future time determine if the City will purchase the property and if so, at what price. Further, we are to develop sugestions as to the best use of the site.

Council Member Bertolini and I have now twice met with ownership. I have subsequenty assigned members of my staff with the tasks of gathering various existing value appraisals and ordering new ones. We sent a team from our Coral Oaks operatioins to assess the condition of the Golf Club and possible costs to physically revive it. We are examining various other elements as well. A full report will be provided to council of our efforts.

The current condition of the Golf Club obviously is sadly diminished from its operational days. However, with regard to its general condition, it is in no worse shape than any other vacant property in the City, and in fact is much better than many. Code Enforcement makes routine visits to ensure the growth of grass stays within the limits. I personally visited the site late last week and rode over the entire property. I found it to be mowed within the week and in compliance of our codes. Frankly, there were several abutting properties with yards in worse condition.

As to the issue of fire hazard, I directed the Fire Department to assess the potential hazard. The department reports the property to be no unusual hazard at this time.

Golf Club ownership has been completely cooperative in granting us access for code enforcement and for our analysis. In addition, they have also met with us when asked and suppplied information we have requested.

The report being prepared by staff is not yet completed, in part due to the need for information from value appraisals the city has ordered. Such appraisals can not be done overnight. Purchase cost predicated on a recent and objective appraisal will predicate much about what the City may or may not be able to do when considering a possible acquisition.

In conclusion, we are moving forward as directed by council and will provide as much information as possible toi enable the Mayor and Council to make the best possible decision for all the citizens of Cape Coral.


Terry Stewart
Cape Coral City Manager
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

----- Original Message -----
From: Eric Feichthaler
To: Terrance Stewart
Sent: Sat Nov 18 14:27:12 2006
Subject: FW: Golf Club Maintenance

Terry, can staff repsond to this resident regarding code and negotiations? Please note this was received last week.



Saturday, October 21, 2006

Action on Golf Club welcome

After months of inaction, Cape Coral City Council is taking a look at options for the closed Golf Club facility.

This is long overdue.

Thanks, though, to newly appointed District 1 Councilmember Tom Hair, the board agreed this week to investigate options and seek an appraisal to determine the value of the 178-acre site that includes an 18-hole course and clubhouse.

Councilmember Hair presented the following options for consideration:

- That the city purchase the 178-acre Golf Club property near downtown Cape Coral outright.

- That the city sell city-owned “surplus” land in less desirable locations and use the funds to purchase the property.

- That the city change current land use ordinances on a small portion of the property to allow for the development of hotels, condominiums and commercial space to entice developers who could then sell the golf course to the city at a reduced price.

Council voted 6-1, Councilmember Alex LePera dissenting, to explore these options.

We hail the majority vote. As stated in previous editorials, a benefit-cost analysis, a look at options and costs makes sense for the taxpayers and the city, which continues to decry a lack of parkland and continues to buy — a parcel at a time — land in the north Cape for a major park.

Meanwhile, a citizens group has already formed and put together a proposal — still in the research stage — that would allow some development provided the course and the bulk of the property were to be donated to the city. The self-formed task force made up of Club owners, community leaders and representatives of nearby home and condominium owners thinks the site can be made attractive to a developer who could, perhaps, to allowed to build 500 units in some combination of condo, hotel room and “hoteliminiums.” In exchange, the city would get the course gratis with the committee saying under this scenario, the developer also could agree to a long-term management and operations contract for what would then be a city-owned course.

Again, an interesting concept in addition to the others on the table.

We look forward to the appraisal and the parks report. And we thank Mr. Hair for moving the issue into the fact-finding mode.

— Breeze editorial

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Hair gets public input on key city issues


District 1 Councilmember Tom Hair called a public-input meeting Wednesday night because he wanted feedback on three key issues: the Golf Club, the Yacht Club and the Community Redevelopment Agency.

Hair got feedback on those three issues and a whole lot more.

More than 60 people crammed into the Cape Coral Association of Realtors building in Club Square to voice their opinions to the newly appointed council member.

“I wasn’t elected, I was selected,” said Hair to the audience before the 90-minute meeting. “I need to listen to you.”

And this is what he heard: save the golf course and make it a resort, and don’t make many changes to the Yacht Club.

The Golf Club closed Aug. 1 after it lost $3 million over five years. Hair presented three options during Monday’s council meeting: the city buys the 178-acre property outright; sell city owned surplus land and use the money to buy the property; or change the land-use ordinance on a portion of the property for development.

When asked how many people were in favor of turning the golf course into a resort, nearly all of the people in attendance raised their hands in approval.

Georgene Walsh, a 25-year resident, said the city is lacking banquet facilities and meeting halls. Walsh’s daughter held her wedding reception at the Golf Club eight years ago, and Walsh said a new hotel would be a great place for those events.

But to others in attendance, the Golf Club is more than just a golf course and a place to hold special events. Many residents see the Golf Club as one of the few historical landmarks in Cape Coral.

“We need to preserve our historical buildings,” one person shouted during the meeting.

Residents also told Hair to preserve another historical site in the city — the Yacht Club. Currently, three designs are available for public input on possible changes to the Yacht Club.

The public can view the proposed changes on city’s Web site,, and submit their input until Oct. 25. After that date, the city will review the public’s input, and then present the information to city council.

Many felt the Yacht Club can’t accommodate any more people, and the city should look at building another area like the Yacht Club in the city. So ideas such as a building a parking garage at the Yacht Club, or moving the boat ramp, didn’t sit well with people.

When a resident suggested taking the money from the Yacht Club renovations and using it towards the Golf Club, the audience cheered and hollered in agreement.

Hair said he didn’t expect such a large turnout, but he was pleased with meeting. Residents voiced strong opinions and gave him ideas without becoming angry or hostile.

Hair plans to take the information to city council and city staff next week. Hair will meet with city attorney Dolores Menendez Wednesday to discuss the possibility of changing the land-use ordinance on the Golf Club property.

Residents said they enjoyed the meeting and pleaded with Hair to hold more open forums such as the one held Wednesday night. Walsh said the forums are more casual than city council meetings and allow council members and residents to speak freely on issues.

Hair said he would like to hold another meeting in April or May before many residents leave for the summer.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Town Hall Meeting WEDNESDAY Hosted by Council Member Tom Hair

Wednesday October 18th.
6:30PM - 8:00

At the Cape Coral Association of Realtors
918 S.E. 46th Lane (Google Map)

Hair expects three main issues to be discussed during the public input session, including: the Yacht Club master plan, the CRA and proposed downtown development and the city’s former Golf Club.

Citizens pressure council to act on golf club


An emotionally charged crowd of Cape residents who have witnessed the rapid deterioration of The Golf Club since its Aug. 1 closure packed council chambers at City Hall demanding answers Monday evening.

While council rendered no immediate solutions to the apparent gridlock between the city and the owners of the defunct 18-hole course, city officials took a step forward by deciding to investigate a number of scenarios for future development and also appraise the property to negotiate a purchasing price with the current owners.

Nearly all the residents who attended the council meeting said they wanted to save the 18-hole golf course.

“I want to see the course stay,” said George Nixon, whose home abuts the 9th hole. “I like playing golf and I think that property has a lot of potential ... what city has a golf course downtown?”

Councilmember Tom Hair, who was appointed to the District 1 seat on Sept. 25 following the death of Councilmember Jim Jeffers, included the city’s controversial 45-year-old golf course on the agenda and proposed a contingency plan to save the property.

“I’m brand new at this and I didn’t mean for it to become a public firestorm,” Hair told the crowd. “I just want to throw out some ideas and see what sticks to the wall.”

Hair presented the following options for The Golf Club:

- The city purchases the 178-acre property outright, which could be extremely expensive but would allow the citizens to decide the future of the course.

- Sell city owned surplus land in less desirable locations and use the funds to purchase the property, which could result in the loss of future park areas.

- Change current land use ordinances on a small portion of the property to allow the development of hotels, condominiums and commercials space; this would entice developers who could sell the golf course to the city at a reduced price.

The Golf Club was forced to shut its doors after losing $3 million in five years.

Of the 400 properties that abut the course, less than 25 homeowners were members of The Golf Club, according to managing partner Scott Siler.

A limited liability partnership between The Gulf Club of Southwest LLC and Ryan LLC in early August formed Florida Gulf Ventures LLC. The joint venture recapitalized and remortgaged the club’s debt.

That debt could now be around $25 million, said city financial director Mark Mason.

Councilmember Tim Day added to Hair’s proposal that the city appease the property owners by assuming the debt while looking for potential developers.

“It’s not going to do anyone any good to let this thing go to total disrepair,” said Day. “This would only be a temporary solution.”

In June 2005, the Lee County School District attempted to buy the property for the building site of five new schools, but public outcry forced the district to withdrawal their $26.1 million offer.

District 4 Councilmember Dolores Bertolini, whose district includes The Golf Club, said she attempted negotiations with Siler and the other owners in the past but could not reach a reasonable solution.

“Two years ago they were asking $18 million,” she said, “then they wanted $23 million for the schools and now it seems like they’re asking upwards of $30 million.”

Siler could not be reached for comment late Monday.

Mayor Eric Feichthaler wanted to secure the property immediately and said the city could consider purchasing The Golf Club for no more than $15 million.

“There’s no promise this would become a golf course, though that’s my intent, but at least we’d have control,” Feichthaler said.

Mason said the city could borrow the necessary funds, but council quickly decided against naming a price before speaking with Siler and an appraisal of the property was completed.

“I’m not willing to pull Siler’s feet out of the fire,” said Councilwoman Alex LaPera, adding that developing at least a portion of the property would be the only way to save the course and keep the city from sinking into the quagmire of debt already associated with the property.

Hair countered that no other public recreation facilities are required to turn a profit, adding that the city could sell off surplus properties and use the proceeds to retain The Golf Club.

“Parks and recreation is not a profit center,” said Hair, “and we have other properties sitting in the city that we could use to snatch a better piece.”

Council voted 6-1 to investigate the options presented by Hair and Day.

Bertolini voted against the motion.

As city officials take a step towards breathing new life into The Golf Club, its return to an uninhibited wilderness is ongoing.

Siler has been cited numerous times for violating city ordinance, according to officials.

That Siler has apparently let the course become an overgrown eyesore was not surprising to Bertolini, who said she suspects it may be a business tactic.

“He (Siler) is sitting back and waiting until it deteriorates to a point where we’re doing what we did tonight,” she said. “I think it’s all a big real estate tactic.”

Nearby homeowners say the course has become a brush fire waiting to happen and a breeding ground for rats and snakes.

“We’re going to have people walking around out there and getting bitten by a snake,” Hair said earlier this week. “You’ve got this big empty piece of land waiting for something bad to happen to it.”

According to those who own property near The Golf Club, bad things have already begun to happen.

Michelle Sour, of 702 Wildwood Place, said her home has depreciated by $100,000 and that a potential buyer backed out of the deal since the course closed.

“We can’t even give that home away,” she said. “You just can’t do that to people.”

Course’s future may go to voters

By Don Ruane
Originally posted on October 18, 2006

Voters ultimately may decide whether Cape Coral buys the 175-acre The Golf Club to preserve it from intense development.

The decision could go to a referendum next November if the club owners insist on a price that’s too high for the Cape Coral City Council’s comfort, Mayor Eric Feichthaler said Tuesday.

The council voted Monday to contact The Golf Club owners to see whether they would sell to the city. Co-owner Scott Siler said he’s willing to listen to any proposal the city makes.

“The perfect point is where they got to last night,” Siler said referring to Monday’s meeting.

The show of unity in the 6-1 vote makes it possible to have a serious discussion, Siler said.

Siler and the mayor could be millions of dollars apart. But Siler won’t talk about a specific number the city could offer to get his attention.

The property was valued at $28 million and $30 million by two appraisers when the Lee County School District made a $26.1 million offer in 2005, school district spokes-man Joe Donzelli said.

The property was reappraised for $28.5 million when The Golf Club recapitalized this year and became Florida Gulf Ventures, Siler said.

“Fifteen million dollars is a reasonable price,” Feicht-haler said. But $27 million would not be to him.

“The golf course is going to have to be rebuilt. It’s a mess,” Feichthaler said.

City Manager Terry Stewart warned during Monday’s council discussion restoring the course could cost a couple million dollars.

Siler said he doesn’t know what it would take to restore the course to playing conditions. The course closed Aug. 1 and maintenance, aside from occasional mowings, ended as well.

All The Golf Club’s equipment has been liquidated. The course needs fertilizing and the greens might need to be replanted, Siler said.

The restoration might not be very complicated or expensive if the course and its irrigation and drainage systems were in good condition when it closed, said Jeff Bollig, spokesman for the Golf Club Superintendents Association of America in Lawrence, Kan.

“There are courses in New Orleans that were brought back to playing condition,” Bollig said, referring to the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. “If it’s just been sitting there, there may be no contamination in the bunker sand. The greens might still be alive.”

An estimated 150 residents attended Monday’s meeting to encourage the council to buy the property and restore it.

Some residents complained about the rundown appearance of the course and expressed fear conditions were getting dangerous.

“My main concern is a big, big fire hazard. All I can see is a flick of the match and there it goes,” Anna Feldman of Southeast Sixth Avenue told the council.

But Siler discounted that fear. The grass has been mowed six or seven times and contractors are called when it needs another cutting, he said.

“By and large it’s brown, dry and it’s short.”

City code inspectors have visited the course in response to complaints.

Councilwoman Dolores Bertolini said the business has been cited.

A process has to be followed with citations, and it takes time, Stewart told the council.

A revived course would be an asset and it would restore property values, Bollig said.

That would please Michelle Sauer, of Wildwood Parkway, who told the council her property value dove when the school district’s proposal became public.

“That was our retirement money,” Sauer said. “People identify with it. People were married there. It needs to become a golf course again and be renamed Cape Coral Golf Course.”

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Cape may try to buy Golf Club

Council votes 6-1 to approach owners about price, willingness to sell site

By Don Ruane
Originally posted on October 17, 2006

Cape Coral’s City Council has agreed to ask the owners of what once was the city’s oldest golf course whether they’re willing to sell it and for how much.

“We want to keep it as the jewel of the city as it once was. I hope we can get to that point again,” Mayor Eric Feichthaler said.

While some residents who live near the 175 acres known as The Golf Club want the city to buy it, the city has done nothing until now.

The Lee County School District tried to buy it in 2005 for $26 million for use as a five-school campus, but protests from neighboring homeowners forced the district to withdraw its proposal.

The vote to ask about buying the former golf course was 6-1. Councilwoman Alex LePera wanted to keep the city out of the market for the site.

Councilman Mickey Rosado did not attend the meeting. He is sitting out meetings this month while a independent firm conducts an investigation into whether he violated the city charter.

The Golf Club was closed Aug. 1 after losing $3 million over five years, and the company that owns the property was reorganized. Managing partner Scott Siler retained a 50 percent interest in the new company, Florida Gulf Venture LLC.

Siler welcomed the city’s decision to talk about buying the club.

“Our position hasn’t changed. It’s a valuable piece of land. It belongs in the public’s interest,” Siler said. “Our partners are very civic-minded.”

Mary Nielson, who helped organize neighbors to fight the school district’s purchase, said she was stunned by the city’s decision.

“I’m happy to see the City Council brought it to the forefront,” Nielson said. “I didn’t know what would happen. Everybody is still watching. Let’s see if they come through.”

About 150 people Monday showed up for the discussion.

“You are losing an opportunity if you don’t do anything about The Golf Club,” said Brian Whitehouse of Southwest 20th Place. “Now is the time to do something.”
City Councilman Tom Hair asked to have the discussion placed on Monday’s agenda.

“This is a deteriorating situation,” said Hair, whose parents live in Banyan Trace, a condominium building that overlooks the course. “I’ve watched one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen turn into a dump.”

Hair proposed several scenarios of what could be done with the course.

Part of it could be converted to a senior center or arts center, he said. He also suggested a condo-hotel project, water features, bike and jogging paths or a site for a bandshell.

The city could buy the land outright or sell surplus land to help pay for it, he said.

The course has been appraised between $28 million and $30 million, Siler said. The school district offered $26 million. The price is negotiable, he said.

“The real key is what it’s worth,” City Manager Terry Stewart said. The city will need to get two appraisals before it tries to buy the course.

During a break, Feichthaler said he told some residents he would work hard to buy it if the price was $15 million.

“The key to me is trying to lock it up at a reasonable price,” Feichthaler said.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Cape Council to discuss buying golf course

By Don Ruane
Originally posted on October 16, 2006

About 150 people concerned about the future of The Golf Club are waiting in the Cape Coral City Council chamber to find out if the city will make an effort to buy the property.

City Councilman Tom Hair put the subject on tonight’s agenda for discussion.

The Golf Club’s 175 acres could become a jewel of the city’s park system, according to Hair. The course is located at 4003 Palm Tree Blvd.

The Golf Club closed Aug. 1 after losing $3 million over the past five years. The property is zoned for single-family homes but appears on the city’s land-use map as land for parks and recreation uses.

Residents who live near the course fear they will lose their golf course views and suffer a reduction in property values.

While some residents who live near the course want the city to buy it, the city has not made any moves to purchase the private business.

The Lee County School District tried in 2005 to buy the course for use as a five-school campus. But public outrage over the potential loss of the green space forced the district to withdraw its proposal.

Residents concerned about the future of the club after the school district tried to buy the land formed a nonprofit called Save Our Recreation. The leaders e-mailed members over the weekend and urged them to attend the meeting.

The Golf Club reorganized earlier this year to financially restructure the private business. Managing partner Scott Siler retained a 50 percent interest in the new company, Florida Gulf Venture LLC.


Hi All,

The Golf Club has been placed on the agenda for discussion during the next council meeting on Monday. Plan to attend.. Please tell your friends and neighbors that may not have access to a computer. I will see you all there. Thank you.

Place; City Council Chamber
Date: Monday October 16
Time: 5:30 PM

Best Wishes,

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Hair seeks public input on issues


Cape Councilmember Tom Hair is holding a District 1 public input meeting to discuss key issues concerning the Cape’s downtown area Wednesday evening at the Cape Coral Realtors Association building in Club Square.

“I want to ask the citizens what’s important,” said Hair. “I want to get their input.”

Hair expects three main issues to be discussed during the public input session, including: the Yacht Club master plan, the CRA and proposed downtown development and the city’s former Golf Club.

“The people living next to the Yacht Club are concerned that it could become a larger incarnation of itself,” said Hair. “A few people said don’t change a thing, but most people want the area to be modernized but not go overboard. I would like to make the area more manageable, but I wouldn’t like to see a parking garage down there.”

Hair said he hasn’t heard much from residents regarding the CRA and proposed downtown developments, but expects the topic to arise during the meeting.

While The Golf Club is in District 4, Hair said he has received a handful of e-mails from residents concerned with the rapidly deteriorating condition of the vacant property.

After losing $3 million in five years, the course was forced to shut its doors Aug. 1.

“I’ve gotten more than five e-mails from concerned citizens about The Golf Club asking what the city should do,” said Hair. “It’s a jewel. I could just imagine that being the Cape Coral version of New York’s Central Park. I’ve been told by several people that they’d like to see a jogging and biking path encircle the entire course. It just seems like a terrible waste of space to sit there the way it is. It’s going to create an eyesore and possible safety concerns for people living near the course.”

Hair said the vacant property was a liability issue waiting to happen.

“We could have people walking around out there and falling into a pond or getting bitten by a snake,” said Hair, adding that he has included The Golf Club on the agenda for Monday’s City Council meeting.

“You’ve got this big empty piece of land waiting for something bad to happen to it,” Hair said. “The question becomes, is it the city’s job to step up to the plate and buy it outright? Right now, I don’t know.”

City Council appointed Hair to fill the vacant District 1 seat on Sept. 25 following the death of Councilmember Jim Jeffers.

Hair has lived in Cape Coral for 10 years and is a math professor at Florida Gulf Coast University.

The public input session is scheduled from 6:30-8 p.m.

On making The Golf Club beautiful again

By Dan Warner
Originally posted on October 14, 2006

People are all the time calling The News-Press looking for publicity. “Good” publicity.
Not Diana Watson. She called looking for bad publicity.

Watson, 62, was clearly uncomfortable. She doesn’t see herself as a crusader.

Sure, there was the time when she was 10 or 11 and she entered a coloring contest and some kid who couldn’t even stay in the lines won the pony, causing her to raise a stink in front of the judges and the whole crowd that had gathered in a local West Virginia theater for the awards ceremony.

“It was the daughter of some big shot in town who won,” she explained.

And, of course, there is her sister, Pamela Martens, who gained considerable notoriety when she became chief plaintiff in a sexual harassment suit that caused the big Wall Street brokerage houses to change the way they treated woman. Someone wrote a book about her called “Tales from the Boom Boom Room” that made her a real celebrity and told all the world that the big boys could be brought down.

But, until now, Watson has stayed out of the limelight, doing her good works by being a friendly shoulder to lean on and volunteering.

Then Watson moved to Cape Coral and came across a neighbor who won’t mow his grass to her satisfaction. Watson got mad, is ready to go public and is quite willing to raise a stink.

We are talking about a lot of grass here. The neighbor is The Golf Club, with fairways, greens and tee boxes weaving in and out between streets of residential homes in southeast Cape Coral.

It closed last summer because the owners weren’t making money.

The fairways are overgrown and now, with the rainy season over, brown, broken only by the green of ugly weeds that give it an ugly patchwork appearance.

“It looks like a cow pasture,” Watson said. “I grew up in West Virginia. I know what a cow pasture looks like.”

Watson’s home neither faces nor backs up on the golf course. It does nothing to disrupt her views.

She is doing it for her neighbors.

“I just don’t want that Golf Club doing what they are doing to people,” she said. “They totally mismanaged the place so that it had to close and now they are selling it
“And the neighbors have to look at their rubbish while they sell.”

“What if all the people in Cape Coral let their yards go? Wouldn’t we be in a fine mess then.”

What sort of editorial does Watson want written.

“They need some bad publicity,” she said.

The Golf Course managing director Scott Silar disagrees. He said the course has been mowed seven times since it closed and the grass is less than a foot high, meeting city code.

“What the neighbors don’t like is that it doesn’t look like it used to look,” he said.
Besides, he said, there is a larger issue — the future of the course.

We have to agree: therein lies the real solution to Watson’s problem and the unsightliness.

So, our editorial will address that issue — hopefully with a tone that will make Watson, Silar, the neighbors and the City of Cape Coral happy.

Editorial: Her idea, our words

It’s not just the neighbors who think the The Golf Club is unsightly.

Cape Coral District One Council member Tom Hair said, bluntly, “it looks terrible.”
It is a scarred, ugly face on what once was a beautiful area.

“It is deteriorating rapidly,” Hair said.

Hair is planning to bring the future of the course up at Monday’s council meeting.

He wants to pass a resolution asking the city manager to investigate ways the city might work with the owners to develop the land, saving as much of the green area as possible.

“That place is a jewel,” he said. “It could become the Central Park of Cape Coral.”

We like that: someone with the vision to condemn the mess, but to look beyond it to the possibilities.

We also like it that The Golf Club is receptive to talks with the city.

“We have been waiting for the people from the city to come see us,” said Scott Silar, the course’s managing director.

“It makes perfect sense to talk with the city. I just wish they would have taken it up a couple of months ago.”

We encourage talks to the end of making some money for the golf course’s owners and, even more, of preserving a wonderful mass of green space.

We hope they proceed speedily and in good faith on both sides.

Meanwhile, perhaps Silar and the city could come to some agreement on mowing the course even more frequently until a plan is devised and implemented.

It really does look bad. Drive by and see for yourself.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

‘Save Our Recreation’ exploring options for closed golf course site


The pristine greens and manicured rolling fairways of The Golf Club have given way to weedy hills and overgrown fields since its August closure, but an effort by local Realtors, officials and business owners could possibly breathe new life into the property while preserving the Cape’s 45-year-old golf course.

A proposal that would develop hotels and condominiums on the 178-acre property while maintaining an 18-hole course, which would be handed over to the city, is currently being considered as a viable option for The Golf Club, said former Cape Coral mayor Joe Mazurkiewicz, now a consultant and representative of the non-profit group Save Our Recreation.

“To reduce the annual operating costs after development, we would give the golf course to the city and then enter into a long-term operational agreement with the city,” said Mazurkiewicz, adding that he’s had no official contact with city leaders and has not found a developer willing to carry the plan forward.

Currently, Save Our Recreation is a loosely organized group composed of numerous business owners and citizens, according to Chris Spiro of Spiro and Associates in Fort Myers.

“There’s a whole bevy of people that are involved in this endeavor,” he said.

Spiro and Associates is the marketing, advertising and public relations arm of BJM Consulting.

Mazurkiewicz, of BJM consulting, said the group still is weighing its options and waiting for a feasibility study before moving forward.

Save Our Recreation was formed shortly before The Golf Club on Palm Tree Boulevard shut its doors to ensure that “any future development of the property includes an 18-hole golf course,” said Mazurkiewicz.

Mounting debt prompted The Golf Club’s Aug. 1 closure after losing $3 million in five years.

The Lee County School District attempted to buy the property for the building site of five new schools in June 2005, but public outcry forced the district to withdraw its $26.1 million offer.

A limited liability partnership between The Gulf Club of Southwest LLC and Ryan LLC in early August formed Florida Gulf Ventures LLC. The joint venture recapitalized and remortgaged the club’s debt, said managing partner Scott Siler.

“There are no new partners, just partners that have taken a bigger piece of the action,” said Siler. “It’s the same guys. There are no new entities involved in this at all.”

Of the 400 properties that abut the course, fewer than 25 homeowners were members of The Golf Club, according to Siler.

“It wasn’t as if there was an outpouring of support for the place,” he said.

Alan Lynch, 50, has lived at 4306 Country Club Boulevard adjacent to the fifth hole for the past 16 years.

“It was a lifelong dream to live on a golf course,” said Lynch, who joined the club only once. “I just can’t play enough golf to get the $4,500 family membership out of it. I work every day of the week.”

A resident at Southeast 42nd Terrace, George Nixon’s home backs up to the ninth hole.

“In the five years that I’ve lived on the course, not once did a representative push a membership,” he said. “Nobody came knocking on my door to try and solicit my business, to try and sell me a membership. Business doesn’t walk to you. You’ve got to go get it.”

A golf professional for 26 years, Steve Anderson said the majority of public golf courses make a profit off development on the property, not golfers.

“You really just about break even on the green fees and memberships,” said Anderson, a PGA master professional at Mirror Lakes in Lehigh Acres. “It’s sad, but the only reason the golf course is there is to sell homes.”

According to Anderson, Southwest Florida ranks highest in the country when comparing the number of public courses, approximately 145, to the number of local golfers that reside between Lee and Collier counties.

“Generally speaking, it’s a tough road for a golf course to survive if they don’t have the potential to develop the land and sell lots of homes and property,” he said. “It’s very difficult.”

City council member Dolores Bertolini, whose district includes the course, said the city is unable to move forward with Save Our Recreation’s recommendations until the owners come forward with a plan development project.

“Until they come in with that, we can’t do anything,” she said. “They have to go through the process and that’s what we’re waiting for. But in the meantime, they need to keep the property in compliance.”

Club owners recently were found in violation of city ordinance after residents became concerned about the appearance of the course.

“I started to get complaints that it was overgrown and code enforcement went out, found the violations and they were cited,” Bertolini said. “Obviously we’re paying very close attention to it because we don’t want it to become a slum area.”

Siler said crews were out mowing the course Wednesday.

“We will make sure we adhere to the code,” he said.

A self-confessed “golf addict” who picked up a club at the age of 10, Lynch said that he’s for the contemplated upward development and remains hopeful that someday he will look out his window and see a reborn golf course.

“Remember when they used to have a motel there with 30 or 40 rooms? It was a profitable thing then and a good thing for the community,” he said. “It’s just disappointing looking out the window right now and seeing how it is ... they used to have the best greens in the county. There’s nothing more beautiful in my eyes than the nature of a golf course.”

Friday, September 01, 2006

Owner disputes Golf Club sale

Says Cape course ownership a 50-50 venture

By Don Ruane
Originally posted on September 01, 2006

Despite what appears to be a $4 million sale of The Golf Club in February, managing partner Scott Siler said he still owns half of the course, with the other 50 percent belonging to a new company.

"It's a 50-50 joint venture," Siler said about The Golf Club of Southwest Florida LLC and newly formed Florida Gulf Venture LLC.

Siler stressed that the course remains for sale, he said.

The new corporation was formed as part of a financial restructuring plan to help control debt, he said.

A transfer of ownership for the 178-acre The Golf Club on Palm Tree Boulevard appeared to take place on Feb. 2, when Siler signed a deed to transfer the 18-hole course to Florida Gulf Venture LLC. The deed is recorded in the Lee County Clerk of Courts office.

The Golf Club closed on July 31 because of mounting debt. Siler said they lost $3 million over a five-year period.

He can't explain the February sale, saying it did not take place. "There is something goofy with that one," he said. "I have no idea what that is."

He said the establishment of Florida Gulf Venture, which he and some of the current club ownership group also are a part of, took place in early August.

The February transaction, mystified residents, who live around the course, and others by surprise.

"The club didn't notify people around here," said Southeast Ninth Court resident Maryann Burke. "I haven't even seen anybody looking at it."

Former Mayor Joe Mazurkiewicz, now a consultant and representative of a nonprofit group called Save Our Recreation, said he became aware of the transaction about four weeks ago, but hasn't been able to determine who is behind the deal.

Florida Gulf Venture registered with the Florida secretary of state on July 31 and with Delaware's division of corporations on June 5.

"We've not been able to contact the new owners," he said.

The sale price of $4 million is listed on the Lee County Property Appraiser's Internet site. But a mortgage recorded with the Lee County Clerk's office shows a $13.9 million amount on the property in the name of Florida Gulf Venture and signed by manager Kent Carlson of Rylan LLC. Siler said $13.9 million amount was a "new mortgage" established after the debt was paid.

"This all happened in the last three weeks," Siler said.

Rylan is listed as the manager of Florida Gulf Venture on incorporation papers on file in the Florida secretary of state's office. Rylan LLC is registered with the state of Delaware as of June 13, but a registration with Florida could not be found.

Carlson is also president of the southeast division of Ryan Companies US Inc, which is based in Minneapolis. The company announced the opening of the southeast division on June 29. The division is based at the same Tampa address as Florida Gulf Venture.

The company is no stranger to Lee County. Rylan Companies completed a distribution center for Robb & Stucky in Fort Myers and worked on the hurricane restoration of South Seas Resort on Captiva.

Carlson could not be reached for comment Thursday.

City Council members were puzzled by the last maneuvers.

Siler met this month with Councilwoman Dolores Bertolini and mentioned the possibility of recapitalizing.

"He never mentioned anything about the deed," Bertolini said. "I'm just surprised by all of this."

Bertolini's district includes the golf course, which was used by the city's original developers to attract customers and became the center of the city's business and social scenes. The course was the site of the 1972 NCAA collegiate championship and helped to establish the juniors golf program in Southwest Florida.

The course was the focus of a public furor in June 2005 when the Lee County School District tried to buy the property. The district wanted to use the 178-acres for five schools. The district offered $26.1 million for the land. But public outrage forced the school district to withdraw its offer.

"I need that golf course to be maintained," Bertolini said. "If something good comes of this, that's fine," she said.

Mayor Eric Feichthaler said he hopes the golf course can be preserved, but he found it strange that the deed was dated Feb. 2 and wasn't recorded with the county clerk until Aug. 8. Recording a deed let's people know who owns the property so bills and other legal matters can be handled by the right person, Feichthaler said.

The delay makes it look like everything was handled internally, and suggests that this is an attempt to reorganize rather than an outright sale, he said.