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.