Keeping Golf Club green key to plans
Cape meeting aired ideas for closed course
By DON RUANE
Originally posted on February 22, 2007
Two separate but similar proposals for the city of Cape Coral's future involvement with what once was its oldest golf course are set for discussion by the city council.
Both call for a public-private partnership to keep some green space on the The Golf Club, a 175-acre city landmark.
Councilwoman Dolores Bertolini, backed by more than 200 residents residents who attended a townhall meeting she hosted Wednesday night, intends to tell council that residents want a combination hotel, convention center and golf course.
In a memo earlier Wednesday, Councilman Tom Hair said that he will propose a city-owned, 100-yard-wide perimeter of green around the former golf course with housing and a restaurant on the inside.
The council has a 3 p.m. workshop scheduled for Monday to talk about whether the city should get involved in the privately owned property. No vote is scheduled.
Bertolini met with residents for about 90 minutes at the Cape Coral Association of Realtors building at 918 S.E. 46th Lane.
So many people showed up for Bertolini's meeting that the fire department stationed a ladder truck outside the building as
a precaution. City Manager Terry Stewart stopped the meeting at one point, declared the crowding dangerous and gave evacuation instructions just in case.
Bertolini said she underestimated the turnout when she booked the meeting room.
Other council members did not attend the session, citing concerns about violating the state's Sunshine law. The law prohibits them from discussing matters they might vote upon with other council members outside of official meetings.
Resident Paul Elia, 80, and Save the Golf Club founder Mary Neilson agreed with Bertolini that the session was productive.
"I got to learn about the feelings of other people. Most of the people here tonight have feelings like mine," said Elia, who prefers a golf course.
"It's a good step forward. We've got people talking again about the future of The Golf Club," Neilson said.
Hair's proposal is likely to keep the conversation going.
The buffer in his plan would be a park with bike and jogging paths. Restaurants and condominiums would be allowed within the perimeter of the park, Hair said.
"If we can squeeze half the land out of them for $4 million or $5 million, that would be the way to go," he said. The course is owned by Florida Gulf Venture LLC.
His proposal isn't perfect for people who live next to the course but would help the whole city, Hair said.
"We're not doing it just for them. We're doing it for everybody. We can't have an eyesore in the middle of the city," he said.
The city council agreed last year to have two appraisals done before making a decision on whether to buy the property. One appraisal said the land is worth $28 million if it is put to residential use. The second said it's worth $13.8 million if used as a golf course.