Thursday, July 12, 2007

Proposed ordinance changes criteria for constructing resorts; Targeted properties can be zoned R-3, but must meet certain conditions for eligibility

By MATT BLUMENFELD, Cape Coral Breeze
An ordinance that would adjust requirements for the creation of resorts in CapeCoral met with opposition at Monday’s City Council meeting by the citizens’ group pushingto ensure the property at the old The Golf Club has a course in the future.
The measure, proposed by District 1 Councilmember Tom Hair, gives developers the ability to create a resort on R-3 zoned areas provided they meet certain conditions. Though it would allow such developments across the city, Hair acknowledged the fact that he crafted the bill to try and end the impasse that has left The Golf Club land vacant and unkempt for the past year.
“My motivation in doing this is simply to preserve this as a golf course,” Hair toldthe chamber. “I feel that (the ordinance) will help to make this piece of property more appealing to a buyer.”
The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended council pass the ordinance by a 5-0 vote on July 11. Last night’s meeting set a final hearing date for the ordinance, which is scheduled for Aug. 20.
Any site that would apply for the resort status under the proposed ordinance would have to be at least 75 acres in size, have a parks and recreation future land use classification and could only develop on 25 percent of the property. The rest of the land would have to be utilized for outdoor recreational activities.
Resident Neil Smith, of Southeast 41st Street, told council that there are only seven properties in the city that could actually fulfill the measure’s requirements.
Joe Mazurkiewicz, a consultant for the citizens’ group Save Our Recreation, said Hair’s proposal was not a good plan.
“I believe his purpose is honorable, but the fix has too many unknowns,” he said, after delivering his remarks during the public input segment.
Mazurkiewicz, and a half dozen residents who came to support the Save Our Recreation cause, said the ordinance did “not make any sense.”
“Why would you increase density when the idea is open space?” asked Mazurkiewicz.
Mazurkiewicz said his group believes that a resort could be built on the land where the clubhouse and other buildings once stood at The Golf Club, which was much smaller than the 25 percent allowed by the proposal.
The bottom line for members of Save Our Recreation is the ordinance proposed by Hair is simply unnecessary and potentially dangerous, especially with a possible re-zoning of the property to R-3.
“City staff have concurred that our plans are doable within the existing laws. If that is still the case, we see no reason for this legislation,” Mazurkiewicz said during the meeting.
Councilmember Dolores Bertolini of District 4, which contains the old The Golf Club property, disputed Mazurkiewicz’s claim that the Save Our Recreation group had presented a tangible plan for future use.
“There has been no proposal made,” she said. “There is no official proposal for that land at all.”
Smith saw other issues with the legislation Hair sponsored. He told council that resorts and other hotels should be kept away from homes.
“A resort hotel is a commercial enterprise, it does not belong in a residential district.”
City planner Rick Sosnowski acknowledged Smith’s point that resorts could be built on commercial property, but said the ordinance could also benefit future annexed land or areas currently serving as country clubs.
“We feel that the use of those could be enhanced by the possibility of developing a resort. It might make them open to a broader audience.”
Smith also came back to the history of The Golf Club, pointing out the fact that a private resort would not be as accessible to the public as the land’s previous facilities.
“The permitted uses do not allow a stand alone restaurant,” he said. “The only one that could be allowed on this property would have to be within the resort.”
Mazurkiewicz was more passionate in his remarks against the ordinance, saying that it could jeopardize the future of a golf course at The Golf Club property. He added that the failure to protect the land would break a promise made by the city’s original developers to keep it as a golf course.
Mazurkiewicz and the rest of the Save Our Homes members who attended the meeting said they plan to “bring in the troops” at the second public hearing in two weeks.