Monday, June 19, 2006

Future of site to draw debate

By Don Ruane

Originally posted on June 17, 2006

The Golf Club could become a tennis club, maybe an amusement center or Cape Coral's next multi-housing development after it closes Aug. 1.

Or it could remain a golf course or some form of a city park.

None of nearly a dozen purchase offers in the past year materialized. Now the future of the site, surrounded by hundreds of homes in the southeastern part of the city, is uncertain.

Whatever is in store for the 175-acre course will have to pass rigorous tests of public opinion and political will before it can be built.

There were a lot of protests when the 232-unit Banyan Trace condos were built next to the course around 2001, planning consultant William Nolan said.

"There were a lot of people who didn't want those condos," Nolan said.

One complaint was that the condos would ruin homeowners' views. Anyone who wants to put homes or more condos on the property will have a tough sell, Nolan said.

Any new proposal could produce more pressure on the City Council, Councilwoman Dolores Bertolini said.

"People already are asking me to make promises I cannot make," Bertolini said.

The council should wait to see whether The Golf Club really closes or whether a buyer emerges before it discusses possible city involvement in the course's future, Bertolini said.

"It's a private property deal," Bertolini said.

The Lee County School District, which tried to buy the property last year, has no plans to make a new offer, spokesman Joe Donzelli said.

"Our view is it is a city of Cape Coral issue," Donzelli said. "Will it change down the road? I don't know."

The property is zoned for single-family homes but appears on the city's land-use map as land for parks and recreation uses.

A single-family developer would have to request a large-scale land-use change if the project involves more than 10 acres or more than 10 units per acre, city planner Rick Sosnowski said. Such a change would require a review by the state's growth managers at the Department of Community Affairs.

Large-scale map amendments are allowed twice a year. The city is preparing its second submission now, so it's unlikely a large proposal could be considered before next year, Sosnowski said.

That doesn't mean another project, such as a tennis center or something like Greenwell's Bat-A-Ball Family Fun Park, couldn't qualify under the parks and recreation land use category, Sosnowski said.

Multifamily might be the most likely use, Nolan said.

The course probably could remain but be shortened, narrowed and still handle some multifamily housing around the edges, Nolan said.

"From a single-family standpoint, the golf course goes," Nolan said. Roads and other features would take up too much room, he said.

"But there probably is enough room for some kind of multifamily uses," Nolan said.