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.