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
came around.

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