Saturday, February 24, 2007

Meeting of The Whole PLAN TO ATTEND


• What: City council workshop
• Topics: The Golf Club
• Where: City Council Chamber, City Hall, 1015 Cultural Park Blvd.
• When: 3 p.m. Monday, Feb. 26
• Public input: Not permitted, but meeting is open to the public

Guest Opinion: Thomas Hair

Here's a plan for Cape Golf Club
Create a public park, with limited housing

Originally posted on February 24, 2007
I write this column to explain my thoughts on the fate of the Golf Club, hoping it will be beneficial in spurring a productive and non-adversarial discussion on the issue. During Monday's Committee of the Whole Cape Coral City Council meeting I intend to bring forward a scenario I feel offers the best possible near-term solution to the currently untenable situation. I come to this conclusion based upon a simple fact:

Economically, a golf course will not work. It did not work for the present owners and it will not work for any potential buyer at a price the current owners are willing to sell for.

After numerous and lengthy discussions with the current owners I have come to realize that they are unwilling to sell the property at the golf course appraised value of $13,775,000. This is a number I find too high and they find too low.

If we tried to move forward with condemnation the land would, by law, revert to its highest and best use. That only makes the land more expensive and also makes it unlikely grant money could be used to help offset the cost, not to mention condemnation in this situation would be a gross abuse of governmental power. So, this puts us at an impasse where the land could quite literally sit for years. If that were to happen it would have a negative impact not only on the surrounding property owners, but on the entire city.

The city needs additional quality park land and to keep this property on the tax rolls, we all need to see this blight removed from our midst, and the Golf Club owners need the support of city residents and a plan of action from council.

Therefore, I propose that we move forward with a cooperative agreement between the city and the owners to create a large-scale linear park containing bike and jogging paths that would run the entire perimeter of the property and some interior spaces while allowing limited development of several residential enclaves within the proposed park along with some shopping or dining at the site of the original clubhouse. I think of it as a mini-Babcock Ranch proposal where we retain large amounts of open space, so as not to crowd the surrounding homeowners, while also providing for recreation that will benefit all of our citizens.

These residential enclaves would allow the owners to cleave off and sell the remaining land to the city at a greatly reduced cost while giving them the peace of mind they need to move forward. We get our central park, we increase the tax revenue on the remaining land, we get new dining and shopping venues, and the Golf Club owners are satisfied as well.

If this plan, or something similar, emerges as a consensus during our discussions on Monday, then I would suggest that council direct the city manager to enter into formal discussion with the Golf Club owners to negotiate the details of implementing this plan. I have requested that the owners' representative prepare a proposal that meets their expectations while satisfying ours and he has agreed to do this expeditiously. With both sides working toward a common goal we should be able to come to a solution that satisfies all involved. I subscribe to a Navy adage I paraphrase here, "A good solution today is preferable to a perfect solution some indeterminate time in the future."

Thomas Hair represents District 1 on the Cape Coral City Council.

Proposed hotel not workable, Cape told

Golf Club owner offers alternative plans

By Don Ruane
Originally posted on February 24, 2007
Based on experience, trying to build a hotel, convention center and golf course at The Golf Club won't work, the course's owner said Friday.

Business people have looked at that, said Scot Siler of Florida Gulf Ventures LLC.

"There's no interest. The economics of that don't work," Siler said.
But Cape Coral City Councilman Tom Hair's idea for the city to buy enough land for a buffer zone for homeowners and to let the private sector buy and use the rest for shops and restaurants might work, Siler said. More specific details and price negotiations are needed before commitments can be made, he said.

Park land, though, costs more than golf course land, Siler added.

The city's role in the land's future is on Monday's 3 p.m. workshop agenda for the city council.

More than 200 residents said at a Wednesday town hall meeting they prefer the hotel-convention center golf-course project. The residents also wanted a combination of city and private funding to pay for their project.

The 175-acre course closed last July.

Mayor Eric Feichthaler said he wants a developer such as a high-end hotel chain to buy the land, add a convention center and keep the golf course. "I want to have a discussion on how best to achieve that goal," Feichthaler said.

"We've always wanted to work with the city," Siler said. "The sooner we can share a vision and make it happen the better it is for the whole community."

He has acknowledged the course's role in the city's history. It was the first golf course in Cape Coral and its clubhouse was a center for social and business occasions.

Two appraisals were ordered by the city to help the council decide whether to buy the course. They set the land's value at $28 million for residential uses and about $13.8 million for use as a golf course.

The Lee County School District wanted it for five schools, but when the public protested in 2005 it pulled its offer of $26 million.

The course on Palm Tree Boulevard is nearly surrounded by single-family homes.

Lois Hohman, who lives east of Del Prado Boulevard, asked Councilwoman Dolores Bertolini by letter last week to invite the district to buy the property. Parents and the district would benefit from the cluster of schools, she wrote.

"I feel strongly that our city should not be involved in the sale or development of the former golf course," Hohman wrote. "All of the residents of Cape Coral are involved, because any decision involves not only the tax money for initial purchase, but also a continuing expense that I feel will be pouring money into a losing proposition."