Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Council, residents debate future of The Golf Club; council member’s proposal to use property for a park, limited development runs into resistance

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 — Time: 1:19:17 PM EST

By DMITRY RASHNITSOV, drashnitsov@breezenewspapers.com

Several council members expressed their views on what to do with The Golf Club property, but only Cape Coral Mayor Eric Feichthaler got a round of applause from more than 150 people in attendance during Monday afternoon’s city council committee of the whole meeting.

“I am not in favor of changing the land use anywhere in the golf course property with the exemption of in or around the clubhouse,” Feichthaler said. “Too add more residential stock is the last thing we need.”

District 1 Councilmember Tom Hair began the discussion with a proposal to “grant limited development rights on part of The Golf Club in exchange for the dedication of the remaining land as a central park.”

Hair showed a map constructed by him and his daughter outlining what possible residential or commercial development could look like with green space acting as a buffer zone between current residents and the proposed shops and houses.

“I suspect some of you don’t like my idea,” Hair said to the crowd in council chambers. “The surrounding residents get a vast improvement over what they have behind their houses now.”

Hair said the city could use the added biking and jogging paths, and tax revenues from the developed land would increase profits for the city and surrounding homeowners would see the value of their property shoot up.

“All I’m saying is this is one idea in the spectrum of ideas,” Hair said. “This is more high-end stuff. This is clean commercial.”

District 4 Councilmember Dolores Bertolini presented the results from the town hall meeting held last week where more than 200 residents said they wanted a resort hotel with convention center and championship golf course on the property. Those same residents wanted to see a public-private development partnership when it came to the land.

Hair insisted the resort hotel idea is not feasible.

“A couple of developers have looked and wanted to take a pass on it,” he said.

Bertolini and Feichthaler refuted his arguments.

“My first instinct would be to preserve the entire property as a green space,” Bertolini said. “A vote on a hotel-convention center and golf course is the proper direction. Somehow the private sector needs to make this happen.”

Feichthaler said the city needs to help prove the process along.

“We need to direct staff to begin looking for a possible buyer,” he said. “We could become a premier destination hotel and golf course.”

Most of those in attendance live in Banyan Trace, 4005 Palm Tree Blvd., and wore green construction paper on their lapels to show unity in the fight to keep a golf course in their yards.

“That’s why we bought there, because it was a golf course,” said Glenda Henderson, who said she is prepared to sell her condominium and move if any type of development occurs on the property. “That is the main attraction for people in Cape Coral.”

One resident is willing to let the property sit vacant for 10 years instead of putting anything else on it.

“We will wait as long as it takes,” said Terry Thomas, a four-year resident of Banyan Trace. “There should have been a guarantee that the golf course remains a golf course.”

Thomas disagrees with Hair’s assessment on the current condition of the land.

“It’s nice to sit there and relax,” he said. “People are using it as a park today. It’s not sitting, it’s not abandoned, it’s not a blight.”

Thomas said every day he sees people fishing in the lake, taking walks down the old fairways and skateboarding on the sidewalks.

Feichthaler suggested a former professional golfer could afford to come in, buy the area and restore it back to its glory days.

“It can be the social center of our city that it was many years ago,” Feichthaler said.