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.