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


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.