Wednesday, November 28, 2007
By JACOB OGLES
Originally posted on November 28, 2007
Eagles near The Golf Club property have likely laid eggs, according to Cape Coral officials.
“That means more eagles are coming,” said Councilwoman Dolores Bertolini. “It complicates the issue of The Golf Club and its owner’s plans.”
Rick Sosnowski, the comprehensive planning team coordinator who handles development restrictions involving bald eagles, said city officials have now seen a pair of bald eagles on an unused cell phone tower on more than one occasion, and on Monday saw the birds in what may have been an “incubating posture.”
“That means they may have laid eggs there,” he said.
The presence of the eagles could complicate efforts to build. If the eagles are proven to be nesting, developers would need to draft an Eagle Nest Management Plan for the 1,100-foot radius around the nest. Construction would be allowed only seasonally, built around eagle nesting season from October through May, and the area would have to be managed to provide optimum protection for the eagles. That protection zone encompasses a central chunk of the golf course property that includes where the clubhouse once stood.
Officials cannot climb to the nest and check on eggs for fear of harassing the birds and disrupting a nest, he said. The posture of the birds is how biologists determine if the eagles have eggs.
“When you have a new nest, it is particularly hard to determine if its an incubating posture,” Sosnowski said. “You don't know how deep it is, and you don't know just how it would appear if it were just in the nest from ground level.”
Community Development Director Hector Rivera wrote in a memo to a City Council member that a pair of bald eagles were first spotted on Nov. 8 on an unused Embarq telecommunications tower adjacent to the 177-acre property which once housed the Cape Coral Country Club.
Florida Gulf Ventures, the current owners of the property, are trying to sell the 125-acre tract. The best appraisal for the land is about $28 million, according to planning consultant William Nolan. The property was first developed as a golf course by Gulf American Land Corp. during the initial development of Cape Coral. The property is surrounded by one of Cape Coral’s most-established neighborhoods and high-valued properties.
Nolan said the property is not economically viable as a golf course, but said any plans for redevelopment of the site have not been finalized.
“At this point, our plans are incomplete,” he said.
But other property owners in the area are happy to see new neighbors soar in.
“They look so wonderful sitting there,” said John K. Pierog, who has taken pictures of the eagles flying near the nest.
Pierog said he doesn’t want anything besides a golf course on The Golf Club property and hopes the birds also help preserve his neighborhood. He bought a home near the golf course four years ago, and said he played at The Golf Club four or five times a month when it was open. Pierog lives in Cape Coral six months a year, and spends the rest of his time in Michigan.
“They should have been making money,” Pierog said of The Golf Club management.
“It was a historic place, too, the social center of Cape Coral at one time. It could have been that again if they had promoted it that way.”
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Originally posted on November 27, 2007
Cape Coral officials say eagles nested near The Golf Club property may be nesting.
Rick Sosnowski, the comprehensive planning team coordinator who handles development restrictions involving bald eagles, said the city has now seen a pair of bald eagles on an unused cell phone tower on more than one occasion.
On Monday, city officials saw the birds in what may have been an “incubating posture.”
“That means they may have laid eggs there,” he said.
Officials cannot climb to the nest and check out of fear of harassing the birds and disrupting a nest, he said. The postures of the birds are how biologists determine if the eagles have eggs.
“When you have a new nest, it is particularly hard to determine if its an incubating posture,” Sosnowski said. “You don’t know how deep it is, and you don’t know just how it would appear if it were just in the nest from ground level.”
Community Development Director Hector Rivera wrote in a memo to a city council member that the eagles were first officially spotted by city officials on Nov. 8, though numerous reports from citizens had been received before then.
The presence of the eagles could affect any prospective development on The Golf Club, as construction has certain restrictions if within 1,100 feet of an eagle’s nest.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
By Jacob Ogles
Originally posted on November 17, 2007
The Golf Club has seen many a birdie during its storied past.
Now new eagles have been spotted, but they are the type more likely to lower sales prices than scores.
A pair of bald eagles apparently are calling the now-vacant property home.
City officials say bald eagles have nested on a cellular phone tower adjacent to The Golf Club, a public golf course and former social destination that closed in July 2006.
“I guess the golf course has new residents,” said District 4 Councilwoman Dolores Bertolini.
But the eagles bring with them complications about the property’s future. If eagles are nesting on the site, or even nearby, development on the 177-acre site is restricted by city laws protecting eagle nests.
Owners at the golf course want verification before putting plans on hold to rezone the land.
“The city has a picture of an eagle sitting on that pole,” said William Nolan, planning consultant for owners Florida Gulf Ventures. “There is no question there is a nest on that cell tower. Whether that is his nest or not, I don’t know.”
But city officials for years have received reports eagles may have taken over an abandoned osprey nest near the course. A picture was snapped by city officials this week that appeared to show an eagle, and Friday, The News-Press also was able to capture an eagle on film by the nest.
The defunct golf course has become a catalyst for debate in southeast Cape Coral. The land was not only the site of an 18-hole golf course, but also a large clubhouse that was host to popular social events and, for a short time, a hotel, since the 1960s.
Before becoming The Golf Club, it was developed by Gulf American Land Corp. as the Cape Coral Country Club and used as a marketing engine to attract new residents to the area.
But Nolan said the property is no longer viable as a golf course.
“Financially, it just does not work,” he said. “The previous owners spent a lot of money and lost a lot of money trying to run it as a golf course.”
The land is surrounded by some of Cape Coral’s oldest and most established neighborhoods, much of it high-priced property, Nolan said. Property owners’ best appraisal for The Golf Club is $28 million.
An application to rezone the golf course for mixed-use development was filed earlier this year. Neighboring homeowners were informed of the possibility for redevelopment in April. They have launched their own campaigns to keep it a golf course.
City officials have expressed interest in buying the property and developing parkland. Bertolini wonders if arrival of eagles will change the asking price
"This presents a new issue,” she said. “I think any new movement of residents to the area will be animals.”
And city ordinances provide security to these newcomers.
If the nest is proven to be a bald eagle nest, developers would need to draft an Eagle Nest Management Plan for the 1,100-foot radius around the nest. Construction would be allowed only seasonally, and the area would have to be managed to provide optimum protection for the eagles.
That protection zone encompasses a central chunk of the golf course property that includes where the clubhouse once stood.
Other possibilities, such as relocation of the wildlife or exchange of properties for environmental use, may end up on the negotiating table.
But possibility of the birds adds more headaches to potential development plans, and so far, no buyer has publicly expressed an interest in the site.
Nolan said there are plans for development in the works, but details cannot be disclosed at this time.
But some city officials are skeptical.
“As far as I can tell nobody is willing to do anything with the property except let it sit there and become a blighted area,” said District 1 Councilman-elect Jim Burch.
The property right now has been cited by city code enforcement for failing to mow grass and allowing overgrowth of the greens since the course’s closure.
Bertolini would like to see the property turned into parkland if possible.
“I know developers would like to develop it commercially because that is where they can make the most money,” she said. “But why not use the land as a central park in that part of the city.”
Another soon-to-be council member has a different take.
“I don’t think the city should buy it,” said District 2 Councilman-elect Pete Brandt. “I tend to think all such things are better in the hands of private enterprise than in the hands of the city.”
As Nolan pondered the property’s future, he decided to do it from the property. He spent much of Friday near the alleged eagles nest trying to figure out just what bird was setting up house near the land.
“The nest is just not close enough to where I can see what is going on,” he said.
“It looks to me like nobody is home.”
Monday, November 05, 2007
Originally posted on November 05, 2007
After being found guilty of violating the city’s overgrowth ordinance at a city hearing Oct. 18, the owners of The Golf Club must comply by today.
Frank Cassidy, code compliance division manager, said today is the last day Florida Gulf Venture has to clean up the growth on the former golf course, and officers will check tomorrow to see if it complied.
If it hasn’t complied, Florida Gulf Venture will be assessed a $75 fine each day until it does comply.
Several residents said they had seen workers out cutting some of the growth in the last few weeks.
“They’ve been out cleaning it up,” said Mirtha Lara, who moved to Banyan Trace, the nearby development, 2 1/2 years ago after living in Coral Gables for 40 years.
Lara said she actually liked to see the wildlife in the growth, but friend and fellow Banyan Trace resident Irene Snyder said was the exact opposite and hoped to see the land kept neatly trimmed.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Originally posted on October 30, 2007
Cape Coral’s long-range plan now calls for a golf course for every 100,000 residents.
City Council members Monday night passed a change to the comprehensive land-use-plan calling for that level of service.
Previously, the city plan called for a golf course for every 200,000 residents.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
By MATT BLUMENFELD, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sections of the city’s comprehensive plan were changed via a unanimous vote.
Prior to passage, the council amended a section of the plan to maintain the ratio of one golf course per 100,000 residents in the city but including private courses as a part of that ratio. Consultant Joe Mazurkiewicz, speaking on behalf of the citizens group Save Our Recreation, thanked the council for its efforts to clarify the provision.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Originally posted on October 19, 2007
Grass that was once finely manicured is now growing out of control in Cape Coral.
Florida Gulf Venture, the owners of The Golf Club — which shut down in July 2006 — was found guilty of the city’s overgrowth ordinance at a city hearing Thursday.
“I’ve been getting very upset over the condition of The Golf Club,” said Cape Council member Dolores Bertolini. “They keep saying they’re going to mow, they’re going to mow, but they haven’t.
“I told staff to come down hard.”
The property owners face a fine of $75 a day if they do not cut the grass on the property at 4003 Palm Tree Blvd.
“The special magistrate ordered compliance by Nov. 5,” said Mike Van Deutekom, Cape Coral code enforcement section manager.
Representatives of Florida Gulf Venture could not be reached for comment.
Van Deutekom said the judge ruled that the majority of The Golf Club property was in compliance with the ordinance that requires grass to be no taller than 12 inches. But Van Deutekom said the judge also ruled that a lot of the fringe areas needed to be cut.
The grass in the fringe areas is well over 12 inches, Van Deutekom said.
“It’s a mess over there,” said Zunirka Boucher, who lives across from the old golf course at 4018 Palm Tree Blvd. “It’s unbelievable. It’s disgusting. It brings the look of the area down.”
Boucher said she was thrilled about the ruling.
“They should fine them,” she said. “They just let (the property) go. It used to be beautiful. What a shame.”
Boucher’s neighbor, Joe Faulkner, 63, who lives next door, said the ruling didn’t really affect him.
“It doesn’t bother me,” he said. “But that’s just me. If my neighbor’s grass was high, it wouldn’t bother me either.”
A hearing to check on the property owners’ compliance is scheduled for Nov. 15. A lien could be placed on the property if Florida Gulf Venture is not in compliance at that time.
“I gave them enough time to take care of this,” Bertolini said. “For eight months I’ve been telling them. It’s overgrown and it looks terrible.”
Friday, July 13, 2007
I have emailed the current candidates running for city council seats in the upcoming election and asked them to share their position on the issue of the application made by the investor/developers for a change of Land Use from Parks and Rec to Mixed Use (Commercial, Retail and Multi-Family) of the former Golf Club property. I will post their views under their names below as I receive them.
This past Wednesday the Planning and Zoning Commission gave their endorsement to an ordinance that will make it possible to create a golf resort on the grounds of the former Golf Club. I asked our Department of Community Development in coordination with our City Attorney to create this ordinance to answer the concerns of surrounding property owners. The ordinance is written in such a way that it would guarantee the continuation of a golf course on the current site given a willing buyer, but it will also allow a building of up to ten stories on the site of the former club house. This was done to make the property as economically viable as possible while maintaining the golf course aspect of the property. In short, the property needs a buyer, and this will help make that possible. I have asked the city manager to have someone from staff provide a brief explanation to your organization on the proposed ordinance.
Beyond that, I have seen the proposal from the current owners for the property. A linear park with residential and upscale mixed use is a viable plan B if we cannot find a buyer and are willing to allow those who have failed at one business venture to profit off of another. My thoughts are that the property and surrounding community would best be served by a golf resort given the statements of surrounding property owners. My concerns are that if we cannot find a willing buyer, what happens next?
Thomas W. Hair
Councilmember, District One
City of Cape Coral, Florida
James D. Burch
Thank you for inquiring as to my opinion on this matter. I am opposed to rezoning this property and I believe that the Golf Club was a valuable part of what little historical significance remains in this great city. I spoke at the meeting held at the Realtors Building in Club Square several months ago as a concerned citizen.As you probably know, Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite, two very good golfers from the PGA tour in the past, tied for the NCAA championship that was held at the Club over 30 years ago. Many actions have taken place on this parcel including the fact that the club house has recently been demolished for whatever reason as obstacles to revitalizing this wonderful championship golf course layout, but it remains my hope that this property will continue to be looked at as the venue for an 18 hole regulation course and I am hoping that the City officials can look into solutions to help facilitate that, if possible. This city is geographically large enough to facilitate two championship courses and the locations of Coral Oaks in the extreme North and the Club in the extreme South are perfectly aligned for co-existence now and as the City grows. We may never have the opportunity to realize this usage again as the prospect of acquiring or consolidating 175 acre parcels seems to be difficult at best. I also question the wisdom of placing that type of development in that area, nestled inside of the existing community. That would not be the worst use of the property but I believe the best use is what as it began, maybe hotel, as it began originally, but definitely golf course.
Jim Burch www.burchforcape.com
First, let me apologize for not responding to your first request.
Second, let me state that I have two basic premises concerning this property. The first is, that the city should not buy it. That's not to say that I would preclude consideration of some public/private venture in the future, depending, of course on the terms of such a venture. My second premise is that the interest of the area's property owners/residents need to be protected.
Whether or not what I understand your goal to be of returning this property to a golf course, potentially coupled with a convention center can be realised depends on several things. One is the economy of our area. That must be revitalized before anything can be expected to be done with this property. Even when that is accomplished (something to which I'm dedicated), a second requirement is to find the right developer/promoter to actually implement such a complex.
At this point in time, I hope that P and Z will turn down the request for a land use change for this area from Parks and Recreation to Mixed Use, and if they don't, I hope the current council will.
The investor/developer's estimates of disposable income in this area (the so called GAP study) may be flawed. With four of Cape Coral's Zip codes being in the top ten list of foreclosure properties in the US, their estimates could be way off. Also, with what the local real estate industry reports as over a ten year supply of condos, based on available units and current demand, anyone proposing to build more condos, in my mind, is nuts.
Finally, let me suggest that it is my understanding that golf course communities where the surrounding property owners have an equity interest in the golf course are generally successful.
As I understand it, that is not the case here, and it is something that might be worthy of pursuit.
Candidate for Cape Coral City Council, District 2
Walter G. Fluegel
Karyn forwarded your email to me, thanks for reaching out to her. Please let me know if I can come and speak to your group.
Although I can't entirely prejudge it because of my role on planning and zoning board and the fact that I'm supposed to hear all of the evidence at public hearing before making a decision, I can tell you that my position on golf course conversions is fairly straight forward, I am generally opposed to the conversion of open space to other more intensive uses. In fact, the City, a few months back had requested a Fire Station be located on a City park over off Pelican and I voted to deny it! Further, I have some history with golf course conversions, as a planner for the City of Plantation I was involved in preparing the City's defense for two lawsuits against the City, where the owner of the Golf Club in Plantation had attempted to convert a portion of the golf course to residential and was denied by the City. Having said that, in this particular instance, should the homeowners around the Golf Club find some common ground with the developer, to provide some limited type of development on the Golf Club while providing for a meaningful dedication of lands to the City for Park purposes, I would keep an open mind, so long as the neighbors are in agreement.
Please feel free to call me to discuss or set up a meeting with your group.
Walter G. Fluegel, AICP Candidate District 2
Director of Planning
Heidt & Associates, Inc.
3800 Colonial Boulevard
Fort Myers, FL 33966-1075
Dear Ms Neilson:
In 2000 my wife and I moved to Cape Coral from New Jersey . New Jersey, last time I looked is the only state where all of its counties are classified as metropolitan areas, has the densest system of highways in the U.S., has the highest cost of living, highest cost of auto insurance, has the highest property taxes in the nation and North Jersey has the most shopping malls of any area in the world! We escaped that and do not want to see it replicated here.
I do not believe it is in the best interest of our city to change the zoning of the “Golf Club” area so it can fill up with condos and other high density housing, car washes, pizza places, gas stations, pharmacies etc. To do so will stress the environment, the city infrastructure and create congestion as well as other undesirable conditions. I believe it should retain as much green space as possible and yet remain on the tax rolls. I would like to see it become a mini-resort with a pool, golf course and club with associated boutique shops and a small perimeter park serving the resort as well as the community. All of this should be operated by private enterprise. It should generate not only tax revenue to reduce the burden on home owners but serve to attract visitors who spend money here as well as providing amenities for the community as it did in the past.
I believe this may possible if the city and the chamber as well as normal market forces work in concert. We can make the “Golf Club” an attractive investment while preserving the character of the area. I believe it was so in the past and would like to see it become so again.
William P. Deile
Candidate for City Council, Dist 3
M. Lynn Rosko
We have a unique opportunity before us in keeping the Golf Club land use Parks and Recreation. Cape Coral's growth is expected to max out at some 400,000 residents. With that type of growth one has to be cognizant of the future needs for parks and recreation for our residents both present and future. Quality of life in Cape Coral requires as much park land and recreational as possible. This being especially so in the south area of Cape Coral. I will be following this issue closely to insure that this land is put to the best use for Cape Coral residents and not a squandered opportunity.
Candidate Cape Coral Council District 3
Eric D. Grill
I have not reviewed the application for the change yet. When it comes before
P&Z, I will be able to give it a complete review. Without having the
application, it is hard to make a definite decision. I will state that I do
not believe the infrastructure will support increased density at that site.
Obviously, something needs to be done about the property, I am still hopeful
that something can be worked out that protects the surrounding residents yet
still brings a quality project to the City.
Thank you for taking the time to request all of our opinions.
Eric D. Grill
Gloria Z. Baron
Thank you for requesting my input on the application to change the current Land Use of the golf course property from Parks and Recreation to Mixed Use.
I really would like to see the golf course remain as a recreational site. I sympathize with existing property owners whose homes are adjacent to the golf course. The decision to purchase their homes was probably based on the fact that they would always be on the golf course and would be able to enjoy the beauty and spaciousness of the area. However, since the property is privately owned, the owners have the right to apply for the zoning change. In all sincerity, I hope that the City can find a way to negotiate with the golf course property owners to allow the site to remain as a recreational area.
This property is perfectly viable as a golf course. The owners of The
Golf Club simply are not marketing the property at a number that the
private sector is willing to pay.
An analogy for this land change would be that if I over-priced my home
and could find no buyer willing to pay my price then I should be able to
have it rezoned to commercial so that the market would meet my price.
That scenario is as illogical as the attempted rezoning of The Golf
Cape Coral City Council
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Cape Coral - There is a been a battle brewing for some time regarding the
next step for The Golf Club in Cape Coral. At one point the Lee County
School Board attempted to buy the course to develop it into a multi-school
campus.... but was met with opposition from residents. Now developers are
looking to use the land for commercial and residential use, but residents
say they do not need new development, they just want more green.
Carol Sue Gonzalez is sad to see the one of Cape Coral's crown jewels turn
into a pile of rubble. Especially since the clubhouse of The Golf Club was
the very place her son got married.
"Our kids are now celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary this month and
I took pictures last week to show them the demolition of the building they
got married and it's kind of sad," said Gonzalez.
The Golf Club open it's doors back in 1967 to attract new residents to the
growing city. Now that the golf club is closed for good, developers have
asked the city to change the future land use of the club from residential to
mixed use. This would allow developers to sell the property as retail,
office or multi-family living space.
"We oppose it and we will go to every meeting and try to stop it," said Mary
Neilson of Save Our Recreation, a group opposing the plan.
Neilson, who serves as president for the non-profit group is trying to stop
developers in their tracks. Neilson says the land would be best suited for
parks and recreation use even adding a new course or a resort. She says
using the plot of land for commercial use would be her worse nightmare.
"We have a 175 acres of beautiful green space in a growing area and the
traffic issues would be bad and I think it's just time to save some green
space," said Neilson.
If the city approves the developer's plans for the land, it will then go to
the State. Public hearings are set for this fall. Neighbors say hundreds are
planning to show up to protest.
Proposed ordinance changes criteria for constructing resorts; Targeted properties can be zoned R-3, but must meet certain conditions for eligibility
An ordinance that would adjust requirements for the creation of resorts in CapeCoral met with opposition at Monday’s City Council meeting by the citizens’ group pushingto ensure the property at the old The Golf Club has a course in the future.
The measure, proposed by District 1 Councilmember Tom Hair, gives developers the ability to create a resort on R-3 zoned areas provided they meet certain conditions. Though it would allow such developments across the city, Hair acknowledged the fact that he crafted the bill to try and end the impasse that has left The Golf Club land vacant and unkempt for the past year.
“My motivation in doing this is simply to preserve this as a golf course,” Hair toldthe chamber. “I feel that (the ordinance) will help to make this piece of property more appealing to a buyer.”
The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended council pass the ordinance by a 5-0 vote on July 11. Last night’s meeting set a final hearing date for the ordinance, which is scheduled for Aug. 20.
Any site that would apply for the resort status under the proposed ordinance would have to be at least 75 acres in size, have a parks and recreation future land use classification and could only develop on 25 percent of the property. The rest of the land would have to be utilized for outdoor recreational activities.
Resident Neil Smith, of Southeast 41st Street, told council that there are only seven properties in the city that could actually fulfill the measure’s requirements.
Joe Mazurkiewicz, a consultant for the citizens’ group Save Our Recreation, said Hair’s proposal was not a good plan.
“I believe his purpose is honorable, but the fix has too many unknowns,” he said, after delivering his remarks during the public input segment.
Mazurkiewicz, and a half dozen residents who came to support the Save Our Recreation cause, said the ordinance did “not make any sense.”
“Why would you increase density when the idea is open space?” asked Mazurkiewicz.
Mazurkiewicz said his group believes that a resort could be built on the land where the clubhouse and other buildings once stood at The Golf Club, which was much smaller than the 25 percent allowed by the proposal.
The bottom line for members of Save Our Recreation is the ordinance proposed by Hair is simply unnecessary and potentially dangerous, especially with a possible re-zoning of the property to R-3.
“City staff have concurred that our plans are doable within the existing laws. If that is still the case, we see no reason for this legislation,” Mazurkiewicz said during the meeting.
Councilmember Dolores Bertolini of District 4, which contains the old The Golf Club property, disputed Mazurkiewicz’s claim that the Save Our Recreation group had presented a tangible plan for future use.
“There has been no proposal made,” she said. “There is no official proposal for that land at all.”
Smith saw other issues with the legislation Hair sponsored. He told council that resorts and other hotels should be kept away from homes.
“A resort hotel is a commercial enterprise, it does not belong in a residential district.”
City planner Rick Sosnowski acknowledged Smith’s point that resorts could be built on commercial property, but said the ordinance could also benefit future annexed land or areas currently serving as country clubs.
“We feel that the use of those could be enhanced by the possibility of developing a resort. It might make them open to a broader audience.”
Smith also came back to the history of The Golf Club, pointing out the fact that a private resort would not be as accessible to the public as the land’s previous facilities.
“The permitted uses do not allow a stand alone restaurant,” he said. “The only one that could be allowed on this property would have to be within the resort.”
Mazurkiewicz was more passionate in his remarks against the ordinance, saying that it could jeopardize the future of a golf course at The Golf Club property. He added that the failure to protect the land would break a promise made by the city’s original developers to keep it as a golf course.
Mazurkiewicz and the rest of the Save Our Homes members who attended the meeting said they plan to “bring in the troops” at the second public hearing in two weeks.
Saturday, July 07, 2007
What was once the center for social gatherings and recreation in Cape Coral will become nothing but a pile of rubble in a few short weeks. Demolition of the clubhouse at The Golf Club began Thursday after crews finished gutting most of the interior. A backhoe took the first chunk out of the exterior at 10 a.m.
It should be only another three weeks before there is nothing left of a building that pre-dates the incorporation of the city, according to project superintendent Marc Arnett. Workers have been at the closed course for weeks, ripping out asbestos from the clubhouse and tearing down other structures.
Crews began ripping the cart barn and other small buildings apart last Monday. But the structure of the clubhouse remained intact, standing as one of the final remaining symbols of the Cape’s past.
City historian Paul Sanborn was the first general manager of the course and hosted the clubhouse opening. “Now when I see them tearing it down, I remember when we were building it,” he said.
He recalls fondly the time when the course and its clubhouse were “the most luxurious between Tampa and Miami — the jewels of Cape Coral.”
Gulf American Land Corporation, owned by the famous Rosen family, originally developed the property and opened both a golf course and a hotel on the land in 1961. Very few people lived in the Cape at that point, so the corporation build the course to attract new residents. In the mid 1960s one of the Rosens told Sanborn, “people think this is a country club, but it isn’t. It’s a sales tool.”
Construction of the clubhouse began in 1966, and it opened to the public on New Year’s Eve 1967. The club threw a party for its opening, which was just the start of annual tradition. Sanborn said that some rooms in the clubhouse were not even finished, but that he decided that they could not pass up an event like that.
Five years after the clubhouse was erected, golf legends Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite battled for the NCAA national championship on the links at The Golf Club. They would end up sharing the individual title after Crenshaw sunk a world-class distance putt on the final hole. His Texas Longhorns won the team competition that year.
New management would file in and out over the years, each with different philosophies. Wall tile was painted over and color schemes were changed to reflect a more “Florida” feel. The interior of the clubhouse was altered more than the course itself, which underwent several renovations. Eventually, the entire second floor would be closed, bringing an end to the various banquets, weddings and receptions that were once held in the halls. The pro shop, restaurant and bar on the first floor remained open until course operations shut down.
What was once a brilliantly manicured course is now gone. Residents have described the vacant property as a “wasteland.” What used to be a spectacular backyard view is now an eyesore, neighbors say.
Developers have repeatedly stated their case for redevelopment of the land, but future plans are very much up in the air.
Battles over the property have been waged for the last two years, beginning with Lee County’s attempt to buy the course and develop it into a multi-school campus in 2005. After that plan was withdrawn, a new fight began when former course manager Scott Siler announced in June 2006 that the course would be permanently closed as of the start of August that year. It took 11 more months for contractors to roll in to demolish the long- abandoned buildings that stood on the once proud course.
While he understands the reasoning, Sanborn still decries the decision to demolish the clubhouse.
“I think its a loss for the city,” he said.
Still, the possibility of a new course with a resort complex of some kind built on the property does excite him.
Such a plan has been proposed by Save Our Recreation, a non-profit organization dedicated to retaining a golf course on the land.
“It’s sad to see it go,” Mary Neilson, the group’s president said about the clubhouse, “but it was deteriorated to the point where they had to do something.”
Partners for Florida Gulf Ventures LLC, the company which owns the Golf Club, have vehemently opposed such a proposal saying that it is simply not economically viable.
Sanborn remains skeptical.
“I find it difficult to believe in a city of 160,000 that they could not support (a golf course),” he said.
But because of the amount of money the owners lost during the last few years of operation, he understands why the course was closed and why current plans from Florida Gulf Ventures do not include one.
He was cautious to be very critical of the company’s plans for the space.
“It’s very easy to spend other people’s money,” Sanborn said.
Neilson said that the clubhouse was a landmark but it had fallen into disrepair so it had to be demolished since repair was simply not an option. The demolition may be a good first step to revamping the property and putting it to good use once again.
“I look forward to a resort and an 18-hole golf course. We’re working on it,” she said.
Copied below please find my correspondence with Wyatt Daltry, Planner, Department of Community Development, City of Cape Coral. I hope you find this helpful as we move forward.
Please note....Question #4 - Opposition letters -. If you plan to write a letter. Please use the address to Answer #4 in your salutation but mail to me at my office or home. I will make a copy of each one, wait until I receive 50, then deliver to City Hall in person so I can get a receipt. Please be sure to have each person in your household write a separate letter.
1) How does the application process work (step by step in layman's
2) Date of all scheduled P & Z meetings when this property will be discussed?
3) Water, sewer, drainage, street flooding and traffic issue. Will that
be researched by the city staff?
4) To whom do we mail or email opposition letters?
5) Any additional information you may deem helpful in understanding the
Here are the answers to your questions:
1.) The application process for the land use change is a long and
involved process, particularly since this is referred to as a
large-scale land use amendment (over 10 acres), which requires greater
State review than a normal "small-scale" land use amendment, and
involves 2 sets of public hearings. I have also involved the State
review process for this large-scale process.
- First, the City receives the amendment application package,
and determines whether it is complete.
- If the package is complete, then the application is copied and
routed to various City review agencies, such as Planning, Engineering,
Transportation, Survey, etc.
- The various City review agencies review and comment. Planning
Division is the lead agency, and develops a case report, which
encompasses Staff's recommendations and makes a recommendation
(Usually "Approval" or "Denial") to the public hearing bodies, which
would be the Planning and Zoning Commission/Local Planning Agency
and the City Council. As this is a large-scale amendment, our
recommendation for the first set of public hearings will be
"Transmittal" or "Denial of Transmittal".
- Upon completion of Staff's recommendations, the City
Attorney's office develops an ordinance, identifies a Council sponsor of
the ordinance, and sets public hearing dates in cooperation with
Planning and Zoning staff.
- Public Notice is mailed to property owners within 300 feet of
the subject property, states both P&Z and Council meeting dates for the
transmittal hearings. A display ad is published in the Cape Coral
Daily Breeze no less than 10 days before the public hearing for the
Planning and Zoning Commission.
- Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing, makes
recommendation to Council as to whether the amendment should be
transmitted to the State for their review.
- Display ad is published in Cape Coral Daily Breeze no less
than 10 days before the public hearing for City Council.
- City Council public hearing, makes decision as to whether the
amendment will be transmitted to the State for their review. If Council
opts not to transmit the amendment to the State, the amendment is
*NOTE* For a small-scale amendment, this is where the City process
would end (though the language would be "adoption" or "denial" instead
of "transmit"). For now, I will continue as though the case was
transmitted. *END NOTE*
- If transmitted, City staff develop an information package
("Transmittal package") including the case report, case maps, cover
letter, etc. and send it to 7 State and Regional agencies, who have a
60-day review period.
- At the end of the 60-day review period, the lead State review
agency - the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) developed an
"Objections, Recommendations, and Comments (ORC) report, which
identifies shortcomings and issues, if any, that these state and
regional agencies have identified. This report is mailed to the
City, who has 60 days to respond by a.) Adopting the amendments as
transmitted, b.) Adopting the amendment, but in a modified form through
the ORC comments, or c.) Not adopting the amendment.
- So, within 120 days after the State received the City's
transmittal, the City must undertake another public hearing process,
this time to adopt or deny the amendments.
- Public Notice is mailed to property owners within 300 feet of
the subject property, states both P&Z and Council meeting dates for the
adoption hearings. A display ad is published in the Cape Coral
Daily Breeze no less than 10 days before the public hearing for the
Planning and Zoning Commission.
- Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing, makes
recommendation to Council as to whether the amendment should be adopted.
- Display ad is published in Cape Coral Daily Breeze no less
than 10 days before the public hearing for City Council.
- City Council public hearing, makes decision as to whether the
amendment will be adopted or denied.
- If any amendments are adopted, City staff develop an
information package ("adoption package") including the case report, case
maps, cover letter, ordinances, etc. and send it to the state and
regional agencies, along with a formal response letter to the ORC
report. These agencies would be notified in any transmitted cases
were denied by Council, and they perform one last review to ensure that
their ORC comments were followed-through and that no other changes
- If these amendments are found to be compliant with the City's
Comprehensive Plan, then DCA develops a "Notice of Intent" statement,
finding the amendments in compliance. Upon posting of the NoI,
interested parties may appeal with 21 days of posting - if there are no
appeals, the amendments are effectuated.
2.) We don't know yet, since we are not anywhere near the public
hearing stage. This amendment will be part of a larger "window" of
large-scale amendments, of which there may be 15 or so cases. We may
know by August - we are anticipating a transmittal public hearing set in
3.) As this is a land use amendment, we are reviewing whether it is
appropriate to have Mixed Use development on the subject property.
Therefore, issues such as drainage, parking, etc. wouldn't necessarily
be reviewed since that is more of a site plan issue. However, issues
like water and sewer (i.e. "Do we have enough capacity?" "What kind of
upgrades are needed for this area?") and transportation ("Can the
existing road network handle the traffic estimated to be generated by
the amendment?" "Is this overly intrusive to a largely residential
neighborhood?") are legitimate concerns that will be discussed at this
4.) Mail your opposition letters to the Department of Community
Development. The mailing address is:
City of Cape Coral
Department of Community Development
P.O. Box 150027
Cape Coral, FL 33915-0027
5.) I think we hit most of those points in #1. I would say though,
that this land use amendment stage is used to determine the most
appropriate use or type of uses for the property. Therefore, we are
discussing whether Mixed Use is appropriate. We are not discussing
end-users -- for example, it wouldn't and shouldn't matter whether Saks
5th Avenue is a end-user of the eventual development or whether it's a
Kiwanis. It shouldn't matter whether some fast-food restaurant is a
vendor, or some ritzy French place. Doesn't matter if its apartments or
condos or town homes. In fact, drawings and sketchings of the possible
development, while helpful, are NOT set in stone at this stage.
However, if you have any other questions, feel free to contact me -
which is best done by email.
Wyatt Daltry, AICP
Department of Community Development
City of Cape Coral
(239) 573-3160 (phone)
(239) 574-0594 (fax)
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Originally posted on June 26, 2007
Demolition begins today with cart barn
Once the social center of Cape Coral in the 1960s and 1970s, the clubhouse at The Golf Club will be torn down Thursday.
The cart barn at the golf course facility will be the first to go, starting today.
“Boy oh boy oh boy,” sighed Paul Sanborn, general manager of the clubhouse for its first two years.
“We opened in 1967 on New Year’s Eve. We sold drinks for 50 cents,” Sanborn said. “There was a New Year’s Eve party every year.”
When Benchmark Construction workers and their equipment roll in today to start the demolition, those parties will only be a memory.
“Our intention is to go from the cart barn over to the clubhouse without missing a stroke,” said company President Mark Anderson, who still has an ownership interest in the property.
He is part of a group of investors who bought the property in 2001 and then went into a partnership last year with Florida Gulf Ventures LLC.
When heavy equipment rips into the buildings, it’ll also rip into the history of the city as well.
The building was a focal point in many ways.
“It was an outstanding meeting place at one time,” Sanborn said. “My Rotary Club met there for 20 years.”
Families held celebrations there.
“My oldest daughter’s wedding was there,” Sanborn said.
The facilities were upscale for the time, with a large banquet hall on the second floor.
There were dinner dances, valet and concierge services, a lobby done in Brazilian rosewood and crystal chandeliers illuminated the dining room. Stars who appeared or performed there included Count Basie, Roy Rogers, John Cameron Swayze and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.
The second-floor banquet area was eventually closed, but a restaurant, bar and pro shop remained on the first floor.
The course, which first opened in 1961, and a 100-room hotel were built by the Gulf American Land Corp. as a way to entice people to buy land in Cape Coral
The demolition plan brought back the memory of another Gulf American building that met a similar fate in 1998, Sanborn said. That was the four-story office building at Cape Coral Parkway and Del Prado Boulevard that once was Gulf American’s home office.
But the once-proud course, the first in the city and host of the 1972 NCAA golf championship, struggled financially, losing millions before it closed in July of 2006.
Now the land is barely recognizable as a golf course. High grass and weeds present a stark contrast to the once manicured fairways and greens that proved such a challenge for 1972 NCAA co-medalists Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw.
But razing the clubhouse may be the first step in a plan to make the land more attractive to buyers for owner, Florida Gulf Ventures and its partners.
“I’m sad and disappointed that it didn’t work,” said Anderson. “We want to make it an asset to the city.”
The owners have asked the city to expand the uses allowed on the property from single family and recreation to include multi-family, retail and office space.
Save Our Recreation president Mary Neilson said the loss of the buildings might make it easier for her group of residents and businesspeople to achieve their goal.
They want golf restored to the property.
“The investors let it deteriorate to point where something has be done about it. Hopefully it clears the way for a buyer to come in and look at it as an 18-hole golf course and resort,” Neilson said.
A $28 million bid to buy the 178-acre facility and redevelop it as a golf course resort was rejected by the owners last week.
Banyan Trace condominium owner Robert Elliott of Atlanta said he doesn’t know if the demolition will be an improvement or not.
“It doesn’t do any good to have the buildings sitting there idle and deteriorating. Anything that elevates the value of my property is what interests me,” said Elliott.
He wants the land use to stay the same and to see a golf course resort with a hotel developed, Elliott said.
The demolition process will take three to four weeks.
Monday, June 25, 2007
I am a Cape Coral resident who lives on Palm Tree Blvd. When we
purchased our home in 1992 we paid a premium to live on the golf course.
When these owners purchased the course we ate dirt for over a year as
they slowly redid the course. I would just have the house cleaned and a
few hours later I could write my name on my dining room table. No one
complained that I know of. We have always paid higher property taxes
than the people who live directly across the street from our home.
It is unimaginable that people think retail stores, parks (with parking
lots)etc. would make a wonderful addition to anyone's back yard. How
would they like these things in their back yard. I certainly would not.
I have been selling real estate for going on 25 years and whatever
happened to a home owners right of peaceful enjoyment.
We paid a premium to buy our home, to keep our home (through higher
property taxes), to upgrade our home and now to save our home. Frankly,
there had better be some fantastic compensation for all of us who will
have our lives uprooted because of the greed of others. I for one will
not live near more condos, parking lots, parks, retail shopping centers,
schools, etc. I bought this home for peace and quiet. It is an older
neighborhood and that's the way I like it. I intend to exercise my
right to peaceful enjoyment even if I need to hire my own attorney!
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Recently I went to Google Earth to see the aerial view of Cape Coral and was shocked to see the actual density of our community. The land formerly known as The Golf Course stood out in sharp contrast as one of the few open areas anywhere south of Pine Island Road. The controversy over this land seems to hinge on the reality gap between the owner's ambitious avarice and the value of this open area to the whole community.
In designing any ideal community, a given percentage of land is set aside for green space based on population. Our town has grown so fast that we have not been able to continue to accommodate this facet of community living and it is driving our residents OUT of Cape Coral to find respite and recreation. If this space is not preserved for either a golf course or a public park, we will, in essence, be pushing our residents out to spend their recreational dollars on amenities in other communities.
With an eye toward the future and the migratory tsunami that will flood Florida in the years to come as Baby Boomers move south, do we really want to define Cape Coral only as a place to own real estate or as a place to really LIVE?1?
SAVE GOLF COURSES
Cape Coral City Council has the opportunity of a lifetime………to capture the market on GOLF! It has the opportunity to purchase the Executive Golf Course for $3 million. It has the opportunity to purchase the Golf Club for $13.8 millions (the appraised value for a golf course.)
Why are they looking at the short term and not at the long term of what Cape Coral will become, long after they are gone from the City Council? It’s a mystery why they do not see the value in buying the established golf courses and promoting them for future generations…………
Perhaps the City Council has developed a short range view of their role in city government. Where is the long range picture?
When Cape Coral has 450,000 citizens within the city limits, where will the future city council look for green spaces and areas for recreation? Will they then look to neighborhoods to demolish so that they can increase the green spaces within the city?
Why try to retrofit the city, ten or twenty or thirty years from now, when they have the opportunity right now, today, to purchase and resurrect the golfing community here in Cape Coral. The city seems to be doing a fine job with Coral Oaks so they know how.
The Northerners have long known that getting and sustaining the golfing community meant that they had to start with young people…. So they promoted golfing for youngsters by offering cut rates to school-age children. The children, ages 8 or 9 on up into high school, were given cheap rates for golf but were not able to book or reserve their tee times. In other words, they had to take the golf course when adults, who were paying full price, were not using the course.
Often times, these were late afternoon or perhaps not the best weather times of the day. But the children didn’t mind. They enjoyed the opportunity to play. Sometime they even got the opportunity to earn a few dollars by caddying for adult golfers. If they did well, they caddied often, if they didn’t do so well, no one hired them.
This program, of developing the game of golf in young people was created through the Park System. Cape Coral has a Park System. Right now the Park System seems to be busy plotting how they can remake the Yacht Club. What is wrong with what we have? As far as the boat ramp now cutting off the new area of the park that has been added through the purchase of several homes, where was the planning when the decision was made to buy the houses?
Did we say, let’s buy the houses and knock them down and then decide what we can do with the land? How many millions of our tax dollars were spent on that? Was there any plan in mind as to how the new pieces of property can be used within the existing park?
What about making a kiddy park for the toddler’s? Or how about a teenagers pavilion where they can meet, drink sodas, dance to the juke box like I did when I was a teen.
We have no history except for the little pink buildings that now house the Cape Coral Historical Museum. Why can’t we save the pieces of history we have, the Golf Club and the Yacht Club, so that generations from now, our children and grandchildren will have a sense of how the city of Cape Coral came to be.
It is unbelievable that the city of Cape Coral with 160,000 citizens, today, cannot support a handful of golf courses. The city has the opportunity to step up and do something that will have a lasting effect to create and develop a wholesome, outdoor sport, to create wide expansive green spaces within the city limits which will benefit all the citizens of the city.
They have the opportunity, through the Park System, to offer reduced rate golf for youngsters, lessons, and classes to help the young people learn about the game of golf.
What about it City Council members? Are you more interested in going with the flow or are you willing to project and promote a VISION for the future of the city you represent? If you fail to act, will our only recourse be that drive over the bridge into Fort Myers to play a round of golf?
For the record, I do not play golf, I only talk about playing golf, some day I may take it up, but I definitely support it for those who do and for the future generation of golfers. Helen Dorothy
Friday, June 22, 2007
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
By Don Ruane NEWS PRESS
Originally posted on June 19, 2007
An offer of $28 million meeting the asking price for The Golf Club fell through because it didn’t appear to be a credible offer, club owner representative Kent Carlson said Monday.
Apogee Ventures LLC of Reno, Nev., made the offer with a request that Florida Gulf Ventures LLC, owner of the course, put up $5 million in three days, while the buyer would have 30 days to put up $500,000, said Carlson, president of Ryan Southeast. Florida Gulf Venture is a division of Ryan.
Carlson said he couldn’t understand why the buyer wanted the owner to put up the money.
“I’ve never bought real estate that way,” Carlson said.
Apogee also wanted to keep the property off the market for 210 days and didn’t seem to have a track record to show it could manage such a deal, Carlson said.
“It wasn’t a credible offer,” Carlson said.
Apogee partner Brian Higley agreed with Carlson that the conditions for closing the deal proved to be the obstacle that blocked the sale.
The Golf Club, with about 175 acres, opened in 1962.
Controversy boiled around the club when it was learned in 2005 that the Lee County School District offered $26 million for the property to acquire it for school sites. Course neighbors organized Save Our Recreation to fight to keep the property as an 18-hole golf course.
According to the owners none of the potential buyers who’ve looked at the course are interested in keeping golf there. The course closed last July because of mounting debt.
Save Our Recreation president Mary Neilson said she spoke Monday with Apogee partner George Alexander about the future of golf on the course.
“He would like to look at the idea of a resort hotel,” Neilson said. A resort with a golf course is something he wanted to talk about with city officials. But Neilson said she didn’t know if Apogee was committed to that plan.
Florida Gulf Venture has asked the city to change its regulations so retail, commercial and multi-family uses can be added to the single-family and recreational uses allowed now.
City staff is reviewing the request, which must be approved by the city council. A decision isn’t expected until late fall, because the state must review such changes before they can be implemented.
The council has made previous statements that they would prefer to see the golf course remain part of the community.
Higley, the Apogee partner, said the company might come back with another offer, but it hasn’t yet decided how to use the property.
“Our feeling as the buyer is we want to do what’s best for the community,” Higley said.
Florida Gulf Venture also is courting the public’s support. The company held an open house last week for the public to comment on potential uses of the property.
“You need the market to support you and you need the community to support you,” Carlson said.
Friday, June 15, 2007
CAPE CORAL: Developers have a new idea on what to build off Palm Tree Boulevard, but homeowners want something completely different. Residents want to keep as much green space as possible but the developers would like to see more condo and retail shops.
Since last July, the 175-acre former golf club property located off Palm Tree Boulevard in Cape Coral has been closed because of mounting debt.
The owners of the property are now planning how they will redevelop the land and are asking for the public's feedback. At an open house on Thursday – they got it.
Originally posted on June 15, 2007
More than 100 people piled through the doors of La Venezia's ballroom on Club Square on Thursday to voice their opinions about the residential and commercial development of Cape Coral's The Golf Club.
"We are here to make a statement that we all stand together against the land use change," said Mary Neilson, president of the non-profit Save Our Recreation group.
Florida Gulf Ventures LLC, owner of the course, wants the city to change the allowable land uses from single-family homes and parks and recreation to include retail shops, offices, townhomes and condominiums.
The investors want to develop because the course continued losing money after they took over in 2006. The company closed the course last July because of mounting debt.
The company showcased a preliminary conceptual plan at the public meeting that could get it back in the black.
The plan includes a residential village, a retail store area and a mixed use area all surrounded by parks and trails on the 175-acre site.
"This meeting is an opportunity to gather information from the community and explore what they think about what could be in their community," said Kent Carlson, of Ryan Companies US Inc., working for Florida Gulf Ventures.
"There are two things that are needed for a successful development, community support and the market for it. You need both not just one."
Despite the recent housing market slowdown, about 160,000 people live in the Cape and commercial buildings remain under construction — offering retail, office and other business space to serve the growing population.
Many attending the meeting said they preferred the golf course.
“The city is growing so fast one golf course is not enough,” said Cape Coral resident Brian Whitehouse, 65. “The first two things anyone asks when coming to cape Coral, Where do I keep my boat and where is the golf course?”
Originally posted on June 14, 2007
Those attending a meeting today on the future of Cape Coral's The Golf Club saw poster boards of residential and retail development, parks and trails, but no golf holes.
The open house started at 4:30 p.m. at the La Venezia ballroom on Club Square. About 20 people were there earlier, but a much bigger crowd was expected, especially when the Save Our Recreation group arrived.
The non-profit group planned to enter the ballroom at 6:30 p.m. wearing green shirts that proclaim “One generation plants the trees, another gets the shade.” The group boasts 250 dues paying members.
The group is adamantly opposed to the owners turning the Golf Club into residential and business development.
The boards on view present a development with 35 to 40 percent residential villages, 20 to 25 percent retail services such as stores and restaurants, 10 to 15 percent mixed use (stores and offices on the first floor with condominiums above) and 35 to 45 percent parks and trails on the 175-acre defunct golf course site.
There were no plans to retain the golf course on the site because the market isn’t there. No buyers have approached to buy as a golf course
Sunday, June 10, 2007
By MATT BLUMENFELD, email@example.com
Meanwhile, the next chapter in The Golf Club saga is ready to be written. The owners of the course, which is located near the Cape’s downtown, Florida Gulf Ventures LLC, plan to hold a town hall style meeting next Thursday. A written statement from Kent Carlson, a managing partner with Florida Gulf Ventures, said the company will welcome public input at the June 14 meeting.
At a rally last week Save Our Recreation, a group of homeowners and other concerned residents who support the continued operation of a course on the existing property, pleaded with those in attendance to follow a game plan and to contribute funds to the fight.
The meeting drew hundreds of citizens including heavy hitters such as council members Tom Hair, Chris Berardi and Dolores Bertolini. Mayor Eric Feichthaler and several candidates for council were also present. Hair brought to the rally an ordinance which would virtually ensure that the Golf Club property would either remain a course or a resort complex with a course attached.
The ownership has repeatedly insisted that neither one of those options is possible from a financial point of view. In an interview last week Scott Stieler, another managing partner with Florida Gulf Ventures and the former course operator, said that a hotel and course complex is not an economic viability. Even those on the side of Save Our Recreation admit that a golf course on its own is not going to work.
An exclusive, private course is a possibility that may prove worthwhile economically, but Stieler is not a fan of that option. High greens fees and a significant membership cost could offset the expenses of maintaining a course. There would be, however, significant drawbacks to such an enterprise.
“A high-end course would be off limits” to most of the public, according to Stieler. He said that the company purchased the land as a course and wanted to keep the property as an operational golf course but that they simply lost too much money for it to remain open.
Much of the controversy concerning any possible sale of the land originates from two appraisals of the property. Stieler said that the land itself as undeveloped residentially zoned acreage was valued at $28 million while it was about half the value as a golf course. As would be expected, the ownership would want a figure closer to the former appraisal. But Stieler said the city has never even made a real offer, at least not one that could start true negotiations.
Fiechthaler said that such an argument is faulty since the owners do not plan to build single family homes on the property. A change in land use to commercial appears to remain a long shot as many council members support the space remaining zoned as single family residential or a compromise, which would allow for a resort to be built on the property as long as it includes a golf course.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Originally posted on June 07, 2007
A public open house that could go beyond the controversy over The Golf Club's future and get down to just what kind of development Cape Coral residents will accept there is scheduled for Thursday, June 14.
Representatives of course owner Florida Gulf Ventures LLC want to meet with the public from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the La Venezia ballroom at 4646 S.E. 10th Place. The hall is on the east end of the Club Square parking lot in the downtown area.
"Let me stress to you," manager Kent Carlson said in a June 4 letter to residents, "that the goal of this open house is not to present to you our plans for the property. Rather, we will present to you some potential options such as recreational amenities, retail shops, offices and multi-family residential simply as a way to begin the dialogue with you about future development."
The course opened in 1962 and closed last July because of mounting debt. The course lost about $3 million over the previous five years. Florida Gulf Ventures became involved in early 2006.
A controversy erupted in 2005 when the Lee County School District tried to buy it for a five-school campus. Public pressure from course neighbors forced the district to drop the offer. A nonprofit organization formed after that episode to keep golfing on the 175-acre property.
The city council also looked into buying the course for public recreation but opted not to do so.
"We are happy to work with the developer provided the development includes an 18-hole golf course," said Mary Neilson, president of Save Our Recreation. The group of residents and business people formed in 2006 to preserve the golf course.
"Our group is committed to it for the long haul. We will arrive at the meeting on June 14 at 6:30 as a group. We want to show them that we all stand as one," Neilson said. The group has about 250 members on its mailing list.
But Florida Gulf Ventures has been unable to find any buyers for the property willing to include a golf course in their plans.
The company has asked the city to change the allowable land uses from single family, parks and recreation to include retail and commercial uses. City staff is reviewing the request, which will need approval from the city council. No decision is expected until late fall.
Open houses are good ways to reach understandings, according to Carlson.
"The open house format is something we've used around the country in a variety of communities to get an understanding of what the community wants and what they will support," Carlson said.
Florida Gulf Ventures is a division of Ryan Companies US Inc. Ryan is a national real estate development company based in Minnesota.
"In all successful projects we have customers who want to come to these locations to provide services, and if we have community support our customers will be successful," Carlson said. "We're trying to find something that the market will support as well as the community," Carlson said.
Save Our Recreation launched a drive last week to raise $15,000 for the work needed to show that that a golf course is economically feasible.
It is using consultants such as Joe Mazurkiewicz of BJM Consultants and Chris Spiro of Spiro & Associates to compile the information and publicize its activities.
"The amount of money we'll need depends on how long this struggle goes on," Neilson said.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Thank you all for attending the meeting/rally on Thursday. It was nice to see support from so many residents from other areas of the Cape. In attendance were between 250 and 300 people including Mayor Eric Feichthaler, council members Dolores Bertolini and Tom Hair, candidates Eric Grill and Richard Kast, and a few other movers and shakers. Chris Berardi sent his apologies for his absence however, he reaffirmed his opposition to a land use change.
It is imperative that we continue our momentum and keep the pressure on the developers/investors who have applied to change the land use designation of the golf course property from parks and recreation to mixed use (commercial, retail, and multi-family). I am certain that we all agree that the best use of the property for all Cape Coral residents is a resort/hotel with amenities that includes an 18 hole golf course.
Save Our Recreation, Inc. received numerous donations at Thursday's meeting. Prior to the meeting, we raised $9,000 which has already been spent. We will need to raise at least another $15,000 then reassess as we go forward. Keep in mind these expenditures are strictly consulting, filing, CPA, and attorney fees. All funds go to SOR expenses, no salaries, etc... All board members are unpaid volunteers who work for the cause. I hope you will contribute whatever you can.
I have received numerous inquiries regarding fundraising events and activities. A committee will be formed, anyone interested in volunteering for the fundraising committee please contact me and I will put the volunteers in contact with one another.
If you would like to make a donation to support the save the golf course cause, please make your check payable to Save Our Recreation, Inc. and send to:
Save Our Recreation, Inc.
c/o Mary Neilson
3862 SE 7th Place
Cape Coral, Florida 33904
(Do Not Send Cash In the Mail)
Thank you all for your continued support, trust, and confidence in me and my commitment to SAVE THE GOLF COURSE.
Friday, May 04, 2007
A group that states it will fight any development of Cape Coral’s closed The Golf Club that does not include an 18-hole golf course plans to rally and set strategy.
Save Our Recreation scheduled a 6:30 p.m. May 31 meeting at Christ Lutheran Church, 2911 Del Prado Blvd.
The Golf Club’s closing and plans for development on its 175 acres have at least 200 Cape residents uniting to oppose the club’s owners’ decision to exclude a golf course from the area, said Joe Mazurkewicz, of BJM Consultants, spokesman for the organization.
The Golf Club is at 4003 Palm Tree Boulevard.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
By Pete Skiba
Originally posted on May 02, 2007
Battle lines are quickly being drawn over Cape Coral’s oldest golf club.
A group representing Florida Gulf Ventures LLC, The Golf Club’s owner, filed an application with the city to change the way the 175-acre city landmark can be used. The change could turn the site into an area for offices, condominiums and retail shops. The owners, who also filed an application to demolish The Golf Club’s clubhouse this month, want residents’ input at a public meeting in May.
Another group, Save Our Recreation, represents about 215 residential owners on or near the course. The group also will have a public meeting in late May to discuss ways to stop development.
Neither group’s meeting has been scheduled because venues have not been found. More than 200 residents showed up at Councilwoman Dolores Bertolini’s town hall meeting at 918 S.E. 46th Lane in February. There were so many people that the fire department stationed a ladder truck outside the building as a precaution.
“We will fight that land use change,” said Joe Mazurkiewicz, owner of BJM Consultants, who was hired to fight for Save Our Recreation’s cause. “It is our position that we will not accept any use that does not include an 18-hole golf course.”
Attracting people to the cause should be no problem, Mazurkiewicz said.
“We don’t have to convince anyone — everyone already knows developing the course is not a good idea.”
Gulf Ventures sent a letter to golf course neighbors and club members stating that they have no set plans for the property. The letter states that the owners want to engage residents and business leaders to decide what would be good for the site. The owners promised a “significant public park and lake components.”
More than one resident along the golf club’s borders remained unimpressed.
“I’m so disappointed they closed the golf course,” said Angela Braden, 45, who lives on Southeast 42nd Terrace. “If they (develop) I worry about my street becoming a thoroughfare.”
The course sits on what has become 171 acres of dry, brown grass. The owners shut off the sprinklers after closing the course in August 2006.
“I was devastated when the course closed,” said Palm Tree Boulevard resident Marguerite Schaeffer. “We joined the club to support it. I hoped it would stay a recreation area.”
Monday, April 30, 2007
Future of The Golf Club still up in the air.. Owners exploring options; residents want something golf course-related
Most of Cape Coral's original residents teed off there, and now the are teed off about what's going to happen to the land where The Golf Club formally sat.
In a letter to residents around the Palm Tree Boulevard area on this week,
Carlson said the group is continuing to explore the most beneficial use for
the property. We are working with experts to assess what uses would be supported by the
local market, Carlson wrote. The project will include significant public
park(sic) and lake components. Some possible business ventures might include retail shops, offices and multi-family residential. Carlson also states that an application to request a future land use amendment to zone the property as a mixed-use development was submitted this
week to the City of Cape Coral.
Again, let me emphasize that we have not developed any plans for this site and will not do so without first seeking the input from neighbors like you, Carlson wrote. Soon, you will be invited to a community meeting with other residents and business leaders to discuss the type of businesses that might be appropriate and beneficial for the project.
Mary Neilson, spokesman for Save the Golf Course, said either a golf course
with a resort or a passive park are the only things she and most residents
would be happy with.
What we're looking for and what we will be happy with is to preserve the land, Neilson said. We are going to work to do it and continue to do it. Neilson said that mixed use developments belong in the downtown area.
Separate from the possible development in the area, open spaces donated to
the city are a strong possibility. Residents in that area will always be comfortable in knowing that there will always be a park to separate the area, said District 4 Councilmember
Dolores Bertolini, who spoke with owners of the land this past week about a
perimeter park buffer between the current houses and anything else built on
the property. The councilmember said she is confident that the other councilmembers would
be willing to accept the perimeter park land as a donation, and the city
would have to pay to landscape and maintain it. During her meeting with The Golf Club Owners this week, the councilmember asked Florida Gulf Ventures Managing Partner Kent Carlson to keep residents informed of the ongoing situation and to hold a future town hall meeting to
discuss any possible development.
According to City of Cape Coral Economic Director Mike Jackson, at least
four parties interested in possibly developing the land into a hotel/resort
and golf course had contacted him and been directed to speak to The Golf
Club land owners.
District 1 Councilmember Tom Hair, who proposed a similar idea to the
exterior park and subsequently had residents reject his idea said many
residents around the area will probably not be in support of anything that
does not involve a golf course. I'm willing to listen, Hair said. I have a feeling a lot of people around there won't like it. If they want to let it sit the way it is and hope things change, that's their prerogative.
Mayor Eric Feichthaler said the owners have an uphill battle to convince
residents that development is a good idea. I believe it should be open space, Feichthaler said. Residents will have a major role in deciding the fate of the land.
Currently, one project in the area that is scheduled to proceed shortly is
the demolition of the club house after a final asbestos study is complete.
Bertolini said the current asking price for the area is $28 million, and the
owners told her they would be willing to sell it for that amount if a bidder
The Golf Club opened on New Year's 1967. The property sits on Country Club
Road between Palm Tree Blvd and Wildwood Pkwy where many homes and
condominiums overlook the once lush greens. Current owners closed the
facility down in December of 2006 after reporting nearly $4 million in
losses during their five year ownership.
In 1972, the National Collegiate Athletics Association held its championship
tournament at the club. It had been the first time they played it in
Florida, and future golf legends Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw teed off as part
of the field. Over the years, many junior golf tournaments graced the
greens and Ladies Professional Golf Association founder Patty Berg used to
play rounds under the sun.
A possibility of the city purchasing the land went to the wayside after two
appraisals done on the land produced amounts the city was unwilling to pay.
The first appraisal, completed at the end of December 2006, calls for the
city to pay $28 million to the current owners of the property and use the
land for, the highest and best use of the site.
The second appraisal came in February and estimated the value of the land at
$13.8 million if a golf course reopened on the property. This estimate also
includes the potential to develop a resort hotel.
A feasibility study conducted by the city in mid-December recommended:
*The city purchasing the entire property and operating it as a park or golf
*The city purchasing the property by selling surplus lands in other areas
to help finance the sale.
*The city owning and operating a golf course on the land, with the private
sector developing a resort hotel.
*A private entity purchasing the land and developing a resort hotel and
golf course with city incentives.
During a town hall meeting held in March, citizens overwhelmingly asked
Bertolini to attempt to keep the property as a golf course and possibly
adding a hotel to the mix. Most residents argue that their is no reason for residential development because of the large overstock of homes on the real estate market in Cape
Coral, and commercial development would lessen the value of homes that were
purchased to overlook this place of putting paradise.
The book The Other Side of the River by Betsy Zeiss sums up the feelings of
the time towards the opening of the recreational marvel.
Membership in the attractive Cape Coral Country Club had an unbelievably
modest price tag, and saunas numbered among the features in a spread that
offered the usual amenities of golf, tennis, swimming, a restaurant and a
bar. The Landscaping, to top it all off, was magnificent
April 23, 2007
As you will recall, when we announced the closing of the Golf Club nearly one year ago, we
promised to keep you, as a nearby neighbor, informed and involved in the plans for development
of this important property. In keeping with our promise, I would like to update you on our
Since the Golf Club closed, we have had discussions with a number of parties, including the City
of Cape Coral, who expressed a potential interest in retaining all or part of the golf course. None
of these discussions led to an offer to purchase the property. Sadly, as shown by the number of
additional golf course closings in our area, golf is a business in decline. The current economic
conditions cannot support a golf course operation. Absent this ability, our partners are deeply
committed to finding a solution that is advantageous to the entire community, accentuates our
beautiful Florida environment and meets the needs of the local market.
It is still very early in the planning process, and we are continuing to explore the most beneficial
use for the property. We are working with experts to assess what uses would be supported by the
local market. The project will include significant public park and lake components. Some
possible business ventures might include retail shops, offices and multi-family residential.
Today we submitted an application with the City of Cape Coral to request a future land use
amendment to zone the property for mixed use development. This application will be reviewed
both by the City of Cape Coral and the State of Florida in a lengthy process of approval.
Again, let me emphasize that we have not developed any plans for this site and will not do so
without first seeking the input from neighbors like you. Soon, you will be invited to a community
meeting with other residents and business leaders to discuss the type of businesses that might be appropriate and beneficial for the project. Your opinions are very important to us.
We reiterate our promise to keep you informed about the progress of this development and look
forward to meeting you soon at the community meeting.
Florida Gulf Ventures, LLC P0. Box 07457 Fort Myers, Florida 33919
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Thank you. Unless you and the residents support this change, I will not
give my support to this plan. They have indicated they plan to meet
with the neighborhood within 30 days, I will be there if that happens.
Eric P. Feichthaler
City of Cape Coral
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Bertolini asks for perimeter park near The Golf Club; Idea is to separate residences adjacent to property from possible future development
By DMITRY RASHNITSOV CAPE CORAL BREEZE
Dreams of resurrecting a golf course on The Golf Club land are near extinct, but a perimeter park to separate current houses from whatever develops is a strong possibility, according to District 4 Councilmember Dolores Bertolini.
“Residents in that area will always be comfortable in knowing that there will always be a park to separate the area,” Bertolini said.
The council member said she is confident the other council members would be willing to accept the perimeter park land as a donation, and the city would have to pay to landscape and maintain it.
“I asked for it and it’s looking pretty positive,” Bertolini said.
During her meeting with The Golf Club owners Monday afternoon, the council member asked Florida Gulf Ventures managing partner Kent Carlson to keep residents informed of the ongoing situation and to hold a future town hall meeting to discuss any possible development.
In a recent letter to residents around the Palm Tree Boulevard area, Carlson said the group is continuing to “explore the most beneficial use for the property.”
“We are working with experts to assess what uses would be supported by the local market,” Carlson wrote. “The project will include significant public park(sic) and lake components. Some possible business ventures might include retail shops, offices and multi-family residential.”
Carlson also states an application to request a future land use amendment to zone the property as a mixed-use development was submitted Tuesday morning to the city of Cape Coral.
“Again, let me emphasize that we have not developed any plans for this site and will not do so without first seeking the input from neighbors like you,” Carlson wrote. “Soon, you will be invited to a community meeting with other residents and business leaders to discuss the type of businesses that might be appropriate and beneficial for the project.”
According to city of Cape Coral Economic Director Mike Jackson, at least four parties interested in possibly developing the land into a hotel/resort and golf course had contacted him and been directed to speak to The Golf Club land owners.
District 1 Councilmember Tom Hair, who proposed a similar idea to the exterior park and subsequently had residents reject his idea, said many residents around the area will probably not be in support of anything that does not involve a golf course.
“I’m willing to listen,” Hair said. “I have a feeling a lot of people around there won’t like it. If they want to let it sit the way it is and hope things change, that’s their prerogative.”
Mayor Eric Feichthaler said the owners have an uphill battle to convince residents that development is a good idea.
“I believe it should be open space,” Feichthaler said. “Residents will have a major role in deciding the fate of the land.”
The Golf Club opened on New Year’s 1967. The property sits on Country Club Road between Palm Tree Blvd and Wildwood Parkway where many homes and condominiums overlook the once lush greens. Current owners closed the facility in December 2006 after reporting nearly $4 million in losses during their five-year ownership.
A possibility of the city purchasing the land went to the wayside after two appraisals done on the land produced amounts the city was unwilling to pay.
The first appraisal, completed at the end of December 2006, called for the city to pay $28 million to the current owners of the property and use the land for “the highest and best use of the site.” This option recommended the property for vacant residential development “due to the high demand for land in the Cape Coral and Southwest Florida Market.”
The second appraisal came in February and estimated the value of the land at $13.8 million if a golf course reopened on the property. This estimate also included the potential to develop a resort hotel.
A feasibility study conducted by the city in mid-December 2006 recommended:
— The city purchase the entire property and operate it as a park or golf course.
— The city purchase the property by selling surplus lands in other areas to help finance the sale.
— The city own and operate a golf course on the land, with the private sector developing a resort hotel.
— A private entity purchase the land and develop a resort hotel and golf course with city incentives.
Bertolini and Feichthaler said they are both looking forward to a town hall meeting with the public to hear their thoughts and feelings on the future of The Golf Club land.
Cape officials want input on mix of office-retail, residential
By Don Ruane
Originally posted on April 25, 2007
Owners of what was Cape Coral's oldest golf course before it closed last year want approval to use their property for retail shops, offices and multifamily housing.
Kent Carlson, of Florida Gulf Ventures LLC, informed nearby residents by letter that an application has been filed to rezone The Golf Club property to allow a mixture of uses.
The land is approved for residential use now although it's designated in city plans for parks and recreation.
Course owners and representatives said Tuesday the application is an early step toward finding an acceptable use for the land and they have no specific plans for the site.
"We've got to start somewhere," said consultant William Nolan, who filed the application on behalf of the owners.
Carlson said reviving the golf course, which closed at the end of July, is out of the question for the owners. The course was in debt when it closed.
"The current economic conditions can not support a golf course operation," Carlson wrote.
Changing the approved use of the land is a long process that will require state and city council approvals. Major land use changes can be requested twice a year from the state's Department of Community Affairs. The next request isn't expected until about December."It could be 2008 before the council gets to vote on this," Mayor Eric Feichthaler said.
Before then, golf-course neighbors who want to keep the 171-acre site as a golf course or park will make an election issue of it, said Mary Neilson, a resident who has organized opponents to development.
Neighbors want a park or a golf course, she said.
"There are going be a lot of issues that are going to be big, and this is one of them," Neilson said.
Voters will pick five city council members in November for the eight-member council.
Mixed-use zoning will allow for residential, office, retail and park uses, Nolan said.
A preliminary traffic study with the application was based on the assumptions of using the land for 600 single-family homes, 400 condos or townhouses, 100,000 square feet of office space and 300,000 square feet of retail space.
Parks with lakes and hiking trails accessible by the public are being considered, Nolan said.
A meeting for the public to talk about their ideas probably will be held within a month, he said. It's part of the company's efforts to determine what's acceptable in this area.
"I told them don't try to do this without meeting with the neighbors to get their view. They're testing the waters," Councilwoman Dolores Bertolini said.
She held a townhall meeting on the course's future in February that drew more than 200 people. Some residents said they wanted a combination of city and private-sector financing to develop a hotel, convention center and golf course.
Many residents also said they hoped the city would buy the course and keep it for golf or a city park.
"I'd really like to meet with residents and go over it again," Bertolini said.
The company's request might have a better chance if the company donates land to the city to provide a buffer for neighbors of the course, she said.
The company needs public support to get the council's approval, Feichthaler said.
"The public and neighbors around the golf course are very clear about what they would like see, and it is not substantial development," Feichthaler said.