Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Plans to develop Golf Club filed

Cape officials want input on mix of office-retail, residential

By Don Ruane

Originally posted on April 25, 2007

Owners of what was Cape Coral's oldest golf course before it closed last year want approval to use their property for retail shops, offices and multifamily housing.

Kent Carlson, of Florida Gulf Ventures LLC, informed nearby residents by letter that an application has been filed to rezone The Golf Club property to allow a mixture of uses.

The land is approved for residential use now although it's designated in city plans for parks and recreation.

Course owners and representatives said Tuesday the application is an early step toward finding an acceptable use for the land and they have no specific plans for the site.

"We've got to start somewhere," said consultant William Nolan, who filed the application on behalf of the owners.

Carlson said reviving the golf course, which closed at the end of July, is out of the question for the owners. The course was in debt when it closed.

"The current economic conditions can not support a golf course operation," Carlson wrote.

Changing the approved use of the land is a long process that will require state and city council approvals. Major land use changes can be requested twice a year from the state's Department of Community Affairs. The next request isn't expected until about December."It could be 2008 before the council gets to vote on this," Mayor Eric Feichthaler said.

Before then, golf-course neighbors who want to keep the 171-acre site as a golf course or park will make an election issue of it, said Mary Neilson, a resident who has organized opponents to development.

Neighbors want a park or a golf course, she said.

"There are going be a lot of issues that are going to be big, and this is one of them," Neilson said.

Voters will pick five city council members in November for the eight-member council.

Mixed-use zoning will allow for residential, office, retail and park uses, Nolan said.

A preliminary traffic study with the application was based on the assumptions of using the land for 600 single-family homes, 400 condos or townhouses, 100,000 square feet of office space and 300,000 square feet of retail space.

Parks with lakes and hiking trails accessible by the public are being considered, Nolan said.

A meeting for the public to talk about their ideas probably will be held within a month, he said. It's part of the company's efforts to determine what's acceptable in this area.

"I told them don't try to do this without meeting with the neighbors to get their view. They're testing the waters," Councilwoman Dolores Bertolini said.

She held a townhall meeting on the course's future in February that drew more than 200 people. Some residents said they wanted a combination of city and private-sector financing to develop a hotel, convention center and golf course.

Many residents also said they hoped the city would buy the course and keep it for golf or a city park.

"I'd really like to meet with residents and go over it again," Bertolini said.

The company's request might have a better chance if the company donates land to the city to provide a buffer for neighbors of the course, she said.

The company needs public support to get the council's approval, Feichthaler said.

"The public and neighbors around the golf course are very clear about what they would like see, and it is not substantial development," Feichthaler said.