Saturday, February 24, 2007

Proposed hotel not workable, Cape told

Golf Club owner offers alternative plans

By Don Ruane
Originally posted on February 24, 2007
Based on experience, trying to build a hotel, convention center and golf course at The Golf Club won't work, the course's owner said Friday.

Business people have looked at that, said Scot Siler of Florida Gulf Ventures LLC.

"There's no interest. The economics of that don't work," Siler said.
But Cape Coral City Councilman Tom Hair's idea for the city to buy enough land for a buffer zone for homeowners and to let the private sector buy and use the rest for shops and restaurants might work, Siler said. More specific details and price negotiations are needed before commitments can be made, he said.

Park land, though, costs more than golf course land, Siler added.

The city's role in the land's future is on Monday's 3 p.m. workshop agenda for the city council.

More than 200 residents said at a Wednesday town hall meeting they prefer the hotel-convention center golf-course project. The residents also wanted a combination of city and private funding to pay for their project.

The 175-acre course closed last July.

Mayor Eric Feichthaler said he wants a developer such as a high-end hotel chain to buy the land, add a convention center and keep the golf course. "I want to have a discussion on how best to achieve that goal," Feichthaler said.

"We've always wanted to work with the city," Siler said. "The sooner we can share a vision and make it happen the better it is for the whole community."

He has acknowledged the course's role in the city's history. It was the first golf course in Cape Coral and its clubhouse was a center for social and business occasions.

Two appraisals were ordered by the city to help the council decide whether to buy the course. They set the land's value at $28 million for residential uses and about $13.8 million for use as a golf course.

The Lee County School District wanted it for five schools, but when the public protested in 2005 it pulled its offer of $26 million.

The course on Palm Tree Boulevard is nearly surrounded by single-family homes.

Lois Hohman, who lives east of Del Prado Boulevard, asked Councilwoman Dolores Bertolini by letter last week to invite the district to buy the property. Parents and the district would benefit from the cluster of schools, she wrote.

"I feel strongly that our city should not be involved in the sale or development of the former golf course," Hohman wrote. "All of the residents of Cape Coral are involved, because any decision involves not only the tax money for initial purchase, but also a continuing expense that I feel will be pouring money into a losing proposition."