Sunday, June 10, 2007

Cape Coral Breeze Article June 9, 2007

Excerpt from the Cape Coral Breeze related to the former Golf Club.


Meanwhile, the next chapter in The Golf Club saga is ready to be written. The owners of the course, which is located near the Cape’s downtown, Florida Gulf Ventures LLC, plan to hold a town hall style meeting next Thursday. A written statement from Kent Carlson, a managing partner with Florida Gulf Ventures, said the company will welcome public input at the June 14 meeting.

At a rally last week Save Our Recreation, a group of homeowners and other concerned residents who support the continued operation of a course on the existing property, pleaded with those in attendance to follow a game plan and to contribute funds to the fight.

The meeting drew hundreds of citizens including heavy hitters such as council members Tom Hair, Chris Berardi and Dolores Bertolini. Mayor Eric Feichthaler and several candidates for council were also present. Hair brought to the rally an ordinance which would virtually ensure that the Golf Club property would either remain a course or a resort complex with a course attached.

The ownership has repeatedly insisted that neither one of those options is possible from a financial point of view. In an interview last week Scott Stieler, another managing partner with Florida Gulf Ventures and the former course operator, said that a hotel and course complex is not an economic viability. Even those on the side of Save Our Recreation admit that a golf course on its own is not going to work.

An exclusive, private course is a possibility that may prove worthwhile economically, but Stieler is not a fan of that option. High greens fees and a significant membership cost could offset the expenses of maintaining a course. There would be, however, significant drawbacks to such an enterprise.

“A high-end course would be off limits” to most of the public, according to Stieler. He said that the company purchased the land as a course and wanted to keep the property as an operational golf course but that they simply lost too much money for it to remain open.

Much of the controversy concerning any possible sale of the land originates from two appraisals of the property. Stieler said that the land itself as undeveloped residentially zoned acreage was valued at $28 million while it was about half the value as a golf course. As would be expected, the ownership would want a figure closer to the former appraisal. But Stieler said the city has never even made a real offer, at least not one that could start true negotiations.

Fiechthaler said that such an argument is faulty since the owners do not plan to build single family homes on the property. A change in land use to commercial appears to remain a long shot as many council members support the space remaining zoned as single family residential or a compromise, which would allow for a resort to be built on the property as long as it includes a golf course.