Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bertolini asks for perimeter park near The Golf Club; Idea is to separate residences adjacent to property from possible future development


Dreams of resurrecting a golf course on The Golf Club land are near extinct, but a perimeter park to separate current houses from whatever develops is a strong possibility, according to District 4 Councilmember Dolores Bertolini.

“Residents in that area will always be comfortable in knowing that there will always be a park to separate the area,” Bertolini said.

The council member said she is confident the other council members would be willing to accept the perimeter park land as a donation, and the city would have to pay to landscape and maintain it.

“I asked for it and it’s looking pretty positive,” Bertolini said.

During her meeting with The Golf Club owners Monday afternoon, the council member asked Florida Gulf Ventures managing partner Kent Carlson to keep residents informed of the ongoing situation and to hold a future town hall meeting to discuss any possible development.

In a recent letter to residents around the Palm Tree Boulevard area, Carlson said the group is continuing to “explore the most beneficial use for the property.”

“We are working with experts to assess what uses would be supported by the local market,” Carlson wrote. “The project will include significant public park(sic) and lake components. Some possible business ventures might include retail shops, offices and multi-family residential.”

Carlson also states an application to request a future land use amendment to zone the property as a mixed-use development was submitted Tuesday morning to the city of Cape Coral.

“Again, let me emphasize that we have not developed any plans for this site and will not do so without first seeking the input from neighbors like you,” Carlson wrote. “Soon, you will be invited to a community meeting with other residents and business leaders to discuss the type of businesses that might be appropriate and beneficial for the project.”

According to city of Cape Coral Economic Director Mike Jackson, at least four parties interested in possibly developing the land into a hotel/resort and golf course had contacted him and been directed to speak to The Golf Club land owners.

District 1 Councilmember Tom Hair, who proposed a similar idea to the exterior park and subsequently had residents reject his idea, said many residents around the area will probably not be in support of anything that does not involve a golf course.

“I’m willing to listen,” Hair said. “I have a feeling a lot of people around there won’t like it. If they want to let it sit the way it is and hope things change, that’s their prerogative.”

Mayor Eric Feichthaler said the owners have an uphill battle to convince residents that development is a good idea.

“I believe it should be open space,” Feichthaler said. “Residents will have a major role in deciding the fate of the land.”

The Golf Club opened on New Year’s 1967. The property sits on Country Club Road between Palm Tree Blvd and Wildwood Parkway where many homes and condominiums overlook the once lush greens. Current owners closed the facility in December 2006 after reporting nearly $4 million in losses during their five-year ownership.

A possibility of the city purchasing the land went to the wayside after two appraisals done on the land produced amounts the city was unwilling to pay.

The first appraisal, completed at the end of December 2006, called for the city to pay $28 million to the current owners of the property and use the land for “the highest and best use of the site.” This option recommended the property for vacant residential development “due to the high demand for land in the Cape Coral and Southwest Florida Market.”

The second appraisal came in February and estimated the value of the land at $13.8 million if a golf course reopened on the property. This estimate also included the potential to develop a resort hotel.

A feasibility study conducted by the city in mid-December 2006 recommended:

— The city purchase the entire property and operate it as a park or golf course.

— The city purchase the property by selling surplus lands in other areas to help finance the sale.

— The city own and operate a golf course on the land, with the private sector developing a resort hotel.

— A private entity purchase the land and develop a resort hotel and golf course with city incentives.

Bertolini and Feichthaler said they are both looking forward to a town hall meeting with the public to hear their thoughts and feelings on the future of The Golf Club land.

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.