Friday, June 15, 2007

Cape residents defend Golf Club Course owners want to change land use

By Pete Skiba
Originally posted on June 15, 2007

More than 100 people piled through the doors of La Venezia's ballroom on Club Square on Thursday to voice their opinions about the residential and commercial development of Cape Coral's The Golf Club.

"We are here to make a statement that we all stand together against the land use change," said Mary Neilson, president of the non-profit Save Our Recreation group.

Florida Gulf Ventures LLC, owner of the course, wants the city to change the allowable land uses from single-family homes and parks and recreation to include retail shops, offices, townhomes and condominiums.

The investors want to develop because the course continued losing money after they took over in 2006. The company closed the course last July because of mounting debt.

The company showcased a preliminary conceptual plan at the public meeting that could get it back in the black.

The plan includes a residential village, a retail store area and a mixed use area all surrounded by parks and trails on the 175-acre site.

"This meeting is an opportunity to gather information from the community and explore what they think about what could be in their community," said Kent Carlson, of Ryan Companies US Inc., working for Florida Gulf Ventures.

"There are two things that are needed for a successful development, community support and the market for it. You need both not just one."

Despite the recent housing market slowdown, about 160,000 people live in the Cape and commercial buildings remain under construction — offering retail, office and other business space to serve the growing population.

Many attending the meeting said they preferred the golf course.

“The city is growing so fast one golf course is not enough,” said Cape Coral resident Brian Whitehouse, 65. “The first two things anyone asks when coming to cape Coral, Where do I keep my boat and where is the golf course?”