Sunday, December 21, 2008

Money may be key to future of old golf course

By GRAY ROHRER, Cape Coral Daily Breeze

As another year comes to a close, the fate of Cape Coral's oldest golf course is yet to be decided.

The Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency is currently in the early stages of a plan to acquire the golf course most recently known as The Golf Club, but the severe economic downturn is raising some doubts about the feasibility of running the golf course in the black.

The city-run Coral Oaks Golf Course in northwest Cape needed a $68,399 interfund transfer this year to break even.

Steve Pohlman, director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, said most of the course's $2.4 million in expenditures for fiscal year 2009 will be spent on staff.

"A lot of it's labor; labor on the grounds as well as support staff and the clubhouse," Pohlman said.

Some city and CRA officials, however, say the challenges for the closed golf course off Palm Tree Boulevard presented by the crumbling economy can be overcome by the right course and the right plan.

Under the CRA plan, the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of open spaces, would act as an intermediary buyer, acquiring the course from the current owner, Florida Gulf Ventures. The CRA would then purchase the course from the TPL.

A private company could be brought in to run the course, or it could be run by the CRA or the city, proponents say.

Councilmember Dolores Bertolini said the course's success hinges on its ability to pull people from outside the immediate area into the grounds.

"It depends on who comes in to run it and it depends on how large a course it is. It can't be just the people around the golf course that support it, it has to be they whole city," she said.

Jacobsen said amenities need to be placed around the course to pull people to the links. A convention center or small hotel could be placed there to attract clients.

"It's regaining its former splendor, but maybe a little bit better,"Jacobsen said.

Florida Gulf Ventures shut down the course a few years ago after it was deemed not economically viable, but Jacobsen said the dynamics of running the course will change once the CRA owns it.

"When this town had 20,000 people living in it, it operated successfully. The difference with then and now is the original developer of the golf course owned the property free and clear. Now, the debt service payments were running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars," he said.

Incorporating the area surrounding the course is part of the CRA plan, and debt service payments would be provided by the added revenues provided by the annexation, Jacobsen said.

"All we have to do is sell enough rounds to pay for the mowing and the groundskeeping," Jacobsen added.

The TPL is currently in negotiations with Florida Gulf Ventures to purchase the course, and Bertolini said the plan will progress relatively swiftly after those negotiations are concluded.

"I think it'll start to move in the first quarter of next year," she said.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Burch hopes to build consensus as Cape mayor


Jim Burch is still in the process of transistioning from his role as District 1 council member to the mayor of Cape Coral, and he inherits a city facing a myriad of challenges.

Some of the transition is physical — Burch is still moving his personal items into former mayor Eric Feichthaler’s office, and he’s parking his truck in the mayor’s spot at City Hall, which he says is harder to get into than the District 1 spot.

The rest of the transition is mental — the mayor’s seat carries no extra real power than being a council member, but it does carry extra responsibilities, such as running council meetings and being a spokesperson for the city.

“You do have to lead the meeting, but at the same time you have to listen to what everyone is saying,” Burch said.

High foreclosure rates and rising unemployment plague the city, and pulling the council together to address problems will be Burch’s main focus.

“Honestly, the most important thing to me is you need to try and build that consensus so that they’re talking and not fighting,” he said.

That consensus will be key to solving the city’s pressing issues, such as the controversial utilities expansion project.

Burch said he understands opponents of the 6/7 portion of the UEP want to see lower costs for the project, but waiting now will cost more in the long run.

“I don’t want to be the mayor that somebody calls me in 2010 and says, ‘Why did you do this to us? Why did you stop this when we had the lowest prices?’ I won’t have an answer for them,” he said.

In dealing with the housing crisis, city staffers will submit a proposal outlining how the Cape will spend the $7 million in federal funds to buy foreclosed properties, but Burch also pointed out the city is working to reduce the blight that neglected foreclosed homes bring to the city.

The city is mowing vacant lots in an effort to mitigate the effects of rampant foreclosures.

“It makes people feel better when they go down streets like that and we need some feel good things right now,” Burch said.

Preserving the Cape Coral Golf Course as a functioning course is also on Burch’s to-do list.

The Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency floated a proposal to buy the course this week during a town hall meeting hosted by Councilmember Dolores Bertolini. The current owner, Florida Gulf Ventures, wanted to use the land to build residential, retail, and office space, but those plans are currently on hold.

“If we do something different with that property we’re doing a disservice to our community in the long-term,” Burch said.

Preserving the golf course will be a way to invest in the city’s future by tapping into its past, Burch said.

“For our city, that’s important. That’s where we grew up,” he said.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cape Coral takeover of golf course carries risk

By Brian Liberatore • • November 20, 2008

The last group that tried to run the The Golf Club in Cape Coral lost $3 million in five years.

Now, the city government wants to take a swing at it.

While a public takeover may be the only hope for the defunct 175-acre course, such a move carries risks. And some question how much the government should risk to protect land.

"I'm not sure about how I feel about it," said Cape resident Ralph LePera. "I'm aware something needs to be done. I just don't know if it's the government's job to do it."

LePera joined hundreds of other residents Tuesday for a presentation from the Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency on a plan to buy the course from Florida Gulf Venture LLC, which closed the course two years ago after losing millions.

The CRA wants to rehabilitate the course either as a new course or a public park.

"In this case, the government is only providing the actual financial tool," said former Cape Coral mayor and current consultant Joe Mazurkiewicz. He represented a group of property owners lobbying to save the course.

"The CRA would immediately contract with the private sector to develop the course and make it an amenity," he said. "The reality with the banking industry where it is right now, this is the only option."

The course's owners have tried to convert the course into a multi-use property with condominiums, retail space and offices - a move that was shot down by nearby property owners and government officials. Attempts to sell the property have also failed. After two years of nothing, the CRA stepped in.

CRA must expand

The CRA's budget comes from a portion of property taxes paid by parcel owners in the CRA district, a one-half-square-mile in downtown Cape Coral. As property values increase in the district, the extra taxes from that value go to the CRA. The agency pulls about $2.3 million annually from downtown properties. The money can only be spent in the CRA district, so to purchase the golf course the CRA would need to expand its borders to include property around the course.

But if the property values don't go up, the CRA doesn't have any funding. While the CRA's income has stayed steady the past few years, plummeting property values elsewhere have some concerned.

CRA executive director John Jacobsen did his best to alleviate those fears Tuesday. The addition of a functioning golf course, he said, would surely boost property values.

The numbers support his claim.

The average value of property plummeted 11 percent among a random sampling of non-homesteaded property - property without tax exemptions - around the The Golf Club the year after the course closed. Around Coral Oaks Golf Club in the north Cape, non-homestead property rose an average of 28 percent during that same time period.

Between 2005 and 2008, the property around the functioning course only dropped an average of 11 percent while the property around the defunct course fell nearly 30 percent.

Success possible

Many are confident a public entity can succeed where a private group failed.

"It can be viable," said Joel Jackson, executive director for the Florida Golf Course Superintendents Association. "There's a dance that has to be negotiated between the operation costs and the greens fees."

Public courses, he added, also don't need to turn a profit.

Mazurkiewicz said Florida Gulf Venture was bound to fail after it paid too much for the course.

Lee County Clerk's office shows a $13.9 million amount on the property in the name of Florida Gulf Venture and signed by manager Kent Carlson of Rylan LLC.

The project's success may boil down to how much the CRA pays for the property.

The Trust for Public Land could help with those negotiations. The nonprofit acts as an intermediate buyer, purchasing property from private companies and selling it back to governments. The group was behind the Naples Zoo, the Southwest Community Park in Cape Coral and several other golf courses around the country.

As a nonprofit, the Trust can offer tax benefits and has access to federal and state grants to help with the purchase.

"It's going to boil down to three things," said William Nolan, a consultant representing Florida Gulf Venture. "An agreement on the price, an indication by the residents that they're interested in making this go forward, and the blessing of the City Council."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Community shows support for CRA’s golf course proposal

By GRAY ROHRER, Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The desires of many homeowners near the former Cape Coral Golf Course could become a reality if the Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency can pull off a plan to buy the course.

Under the CRA plan, the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of open spaces, would act as an intermediary buyer, acquiring the course from the current owner, Florida Gulf Ventures.

More than 250 people packed the city council chambers Tuesday to hear the plan, and the vast majority supported the idea.

Mary Neilson, head of the Save the Golf Course group, tried to rally the support of the people.

“Everyone in favor of this plan stand up,” she said, as nearly every person in the audience rose to their feet.

The fate of the golf course has been up in the air as Neilson and others fought Florida Gulf Ventures’ plans to develop the land.

In July, representatives from Florida Gulf Ventures pulled an application from the Planning and Zoning Commission to switch the course’s land use from parks and recreation to mixed use.

In order for the CRA to purchase the course, however, the surrounding area would have to be incorporated into the CRA.

The area proposed for annexation by the CRA is bounded by Southeast 33rd Terrace on the north, Southeast First Place on the west, Cape Coral Parkway on the south, and the combination of Southeast Fifth Avenue, Southeast 43rd Street, Southeast 11th Place and Southeast 10th Avenue on the east.

John Jacobsen, executive director of the CRA, was quick to point out that residents’ tax rates will not increase if they are incorporated into the CRA.

“Your tax rate is not affected whether you are in or out of the CRA,” Jacobsen said.

The CRA’s budget revenues come from Tax Increment Funds. In other words, when an area is incorporated into the CRA the taxes assessed on the increase in property values year over year go to the CRA.

With home values plummeting in the Cape during the current housing crisis, CRA officials are counting on a rebound in the housing sector to finance the purchase of the course, but also say state grants will be used to pay for the land.

“It is not only the TIF that is going to be used to buy this land,” said Frank Schnidman, an advisor to the CRA.

Schnidman said between $3 million and $4 million would be available in the form of state grants to go toward the purchase. That would nearly double the CRA’s current budget of $5 million.

Negotiations between TPL and Florida Gulf Ventures have not yet begun, so the exact price of the 177-acre golf course is not known.

“We have to get them to come to the table and get them to negotiate,” Councilmember Dolores Bertolini said.

She also pointed out that the CRA is going to have to call the golf course a “nasty word” in order to move its plan forward.

“You’re going to hear a nasty, nasty word, and that word is blight,” Bertolini said.

Essentially, the golf course, which has not been maintained since Florida Gulf Ventures shut it down two years ago, must be declared a blighted area to be incorporated into the CRA.

“Once we identify blight it allows us to come up with an extension and a plan for alleviating the blight,” Schnidman said.

If the area is taken into the CRA, the city will not see a boost to its tax rolls if property values increase as it would now, but Bertolini said preserving the golf course would be for the good of all the residents.

“Everyone benefits if we preserve the 180 acres of land than if it was just some brown area. If we don’t go forward we have no options, we’re at everyone else’s mercy,” she said.

Cape Coral esidents cheer new plan for Golf Club

By Brian Liberatore • • November 19, 2008

Hundreds of people Tuesday embraced a plan to shift a defunct Cape Coral golf course under public control.

The Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency wants to purchase The Golf Club with public dollars and redevelop it as a new course or a public park. More than 300 people packed City Council chambers to hear details of the plans and offer support.

"The issue tonight is, do we want to preserve it as public lands?" said councilwoman Dolores Bertolini, who called the meeting.

The crowd responded with raucous applause.

Tuesday's meeting marked the first step in a long process, officials said. But it is the first sign of movement in more than two years since the 175-acre course closed.

The current property owners, Florida Gulf Venture, LLC, had tried unsuccessfully to turn the property into a multi-use development with retail space, offices and condominiums. The plan met with vehement opposition from nearby homeowners, city staff and elected officials.

The course's owners blamed an ailing economy and dwindling interest for the course's closure. The group since that has tried unsuccessfully to sell the property. With no clear path forward, CRA director John Jacobsen opted to throw his agency's resources behind a solution.

"This is the beginning of the beginning," Jacobsen said Tuesday. "But we've gotten this far this far. We think this is a real possibility."

In order for the plan to go forward:

• The CRA will need to expand its boundaries to include the golf course. Property in the CRA district does not pay additional taxes, Jacobsen said, however increases in taxes from year to year go to the CRA instead of going into city and county coffers. "Your tax rate is entirely unaffected by the CRA," Jacobsen said.

• Working with the CRA, the Trust for Public Lands, a national nonprofit, would purchase the property from the private owners.

• The trust would sell the property back to the CRA at no profit. The CRA, with an annual operating budget of about $5 million, would need to borrow money to pay for the course.

• The public will have input as the city decides how to rehabilitate the property.

"We have high hopes from what we have seen so far," said Joe Mazurkiewicz, a former Cape mayor and consultant representing nearby homeowners. "This is a reasonable course of action."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Golf course rescue planned in Cape Coral CRA would expand borders, buy course under proposal

By Brian Liberatore • • November 18, 2008

The former The Golf Club in Cape Coral may have a glimmer of hope after two years of nothing.

But a new plan from the Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency to resurrect the defunct course will need support from the property's owners, the public and the City Council.

The first official introduction of that plan comes at 6:30 tonight in the City Council chambers at City Hall.

"The reason for this meeting is to clarify all the rumors ... and to present a plan being brought forth by the CRA and see if people are amenable to being a part of the CRA," said Councilwoman Dolores Bertolini, who organized the meeting. "I myself want to hear more."

The CRA wants to expand its borders to include the 125-acre course in the south Cape. The expansion would allow the CRA to purchase the property and redevelop it as a golf course - something the current owners have been unable to do.

"When I first came here, everything that happened in this town happened at the The Golf Club," said CRA Executive Director John Jacobsen. "We had meetings there, we had weddings there. It was the social center of Cape Coral. It would be wonderful if it could come back to that."

The course's owners, operating as Florida Gulf Venture LLC, blamed economic hardship in shutting down the city's oldest course two years ago.

In 2007, the owners entertained an offer, which eventually fell through, for $28 million to buy the course.

The owners floated a series of proposals to turn the course into a multi-use development with retail space, offices and condominiums. With strong opposition form the neighborhood, the council and the city's planning staff, the plan died and the company took its request off the table.

The company may sell for less than $28 million, but any offer would certainly exceed the CRA's annual $5 million budget. Any plans to purchase the course would require long-term financing.

Jacobsen has been speaking with the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit with a $70 million annual operating budget, to act as an intermediate buyer. Jacobsen said he will have representatives from the trust at the meeting tonight along with the CRA's staff and legal team and representatives from the ownership.

"I'm very encouraged," said Mary Neilson, who heads a group of nearby residents trying to preserve the course under the name Save The Golf Course. "I think it's doable as long as the community is good with it. I'm really appreciative of Dolores Bertolini's efforts in putting this together."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Input sought for golf course site proposal


The Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency is looking at incorporating the Cape Coral Golf Course into the CRA’s boundaries as part of a plan to keep the land operating as a golf course.

Florida Gulf Ventures bought the 177-acre course in 2000, but recently sought the approval of city councilmembers to change its land-use designation from parks and recreation to mixed use to allow for new residential, retail, and office space.

The CRA will present its plan Tuesday during a town hall meeting hosted by Councilmember Dolores Bertolini. The meeting will be held in council chambers at 6:30 p.m.

“What we want to know is if the people are interested in the possibility of the area around the golf course coming into the CRA,” said John Jacobsen, executive director of the CRA.

Under the plan, the Trust for Public Lands, a national nonprofit land conservation organization, would acquire the golf course while the city and the CRA develop a plan for its use.

“They can act quickly to come to an agreement with an owner” and develop a way to run the course, Jacobsen said.

The city could run the golf course itself or lease it to an independent operator.

Those options are “premature,” according to Jacobsen, until the people are heard from.

“We aren’t going to take one step forward unless we have the approval of the citizenry and the city itself,” he said.

Bertolini admits it could take some time before the plan comes to fruition.

“This is not a short road we’re taking but it’s one of the more positive approaches I’ve heard,” Bertolini said.

Many residents near the golf course have spoken out against Florida Gulf Ventures’ plans to develop the course, but Bertolini said she’s ready to hear their input on the new plan.

“I understand there’ll be a big crowd and I’m prepared for it. That’s the purpose of this whole meeting, to share with the people all the information I have,” she said.

The CRA will discuss the plan at its meeting Wednesday and make decisions about going forward with it based on feedback from residents at the town hall meeting. The CRA’s meeting will be held at 447 Cape Coral Parkway East, Suite 108, and is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

Town hall meeting on CRA’s golf course plan,
hosted by Councilmember Dolores Bertolini
Council chambers, City Hall
6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 18

CRA discussion of golf course plan
447 Cape Coral Parkway East, Suite 108
5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19

Thursday, November 13, 2008


For those of you unable to attend the Townhall Meeting November 18th, it will be televised live on channel 14 in Cape Coral and on the City website starting at 6:30 p.m. If you plan to watch it on your computer be sure you have Windows Media Player installed on your PC beforehand.

To watch on your computer.

Log on to
On the left of site click 'I WANT TO' down to Watch.
Then Click CapeTV14

Golf Club's future topic of meeting

News-Press article November 13, 2008

A town hall meeting to discuss the future of the property once known as The Golf Club will be Tuesday in Cape Coral City Council Chambers at City Hall.

The meeting will be from 6:30-8:30 p.m. It will be televised by Cape TV (channel 14).
Councilwoman Dolores Bertolini is hosting the meeting.

Possible future uses of the land will be discussed, including:

~Inclusion of the course into the Community Redevelopment Area

~Purchase of the course by the Trust for Public Lands

~CRA purchase from the trust

Among the speakers will be Carl Schwing, assistant city manager, Save Our Recreation consultant Joe Mazurkiewicz, Trust for Public Lands planner Doug Hattaway and CRA director John Jacobsen.

There will be a question-and-answer period from 7:30-8:30 p.m.

There are so many rumors out there and I have been getting so many calls, like 'I heard it was going to be sold,' or 'planes have been flying overhead taking aerial views,' that I thought it was time to have a meeting to tell everything I know at this point and to have the CRA come with their proposal, "Bertolini said.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Townhall Meeting Rescheduled AGAIN due to Veterans Day

The confirmed date for the townhall meeting is TUESDAY NOVEMBER 18th.

Date; Tuesday November 18, 2008

Time; 6:30 p.m.

Place; City Hall council chambers

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cape Coral agency wants to preserve The Golf Club land

By Brian Liberatore • • September 18, 2008

The Golf Club, defunct now for two years, might find a way forward on the back of the Cape Coral Community Development Agency.

The CRA is looking to reach outside its boundaries and purchase the 175-acre property to preserve it as a golf course or city park.

The move would require support from the City Council, Florida Gulf Venture, LLC which owns the course, and nearby homeowners.

Councilwoman Dolores Bertolini, who represents the district, is orchestrating the first meeting of the project's stakeholders from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 7, in the City Council Chambers at City Hall. The meeting is open to the public.

"I want them (residents) to know exactly what's happening with the land they live around," Bertolini said.

John Jacobsen, executive director of the CRA, agrees.

"I don't want anybody who lives near that golf course to be afraid or be concerned," Jacobsen said. "This is going to be totally in the open, totally in the sunshine."

The course has been a beacon of contention in the surrounding neighborhood since it closed in July 2006. Florida Gulf Venture blamed economic hardship in shutting down the city's oldest course.

The owners floated a series of proposals to turn the course into a multi-use development with retail space, offices and condominiums. With strong opposition form the neighborhood, the council and the city's planning staff, the plan died and the company took its request off the table.

During the impasse, the course has reverted to an overgrown field, although mowing crews were on the property Wednesday.

"We're going to explore with the public, whether the CRA can play a role in saving it (the course)," Jacobsen said.

Jacobsen, who took the CRA's reigns two months ago, wants to harness the CRA's bonding power to break the impasse.

In 2007, the owners entertained an offer, which eventually fell through, for $28 million to buy the course. The company may sell for less, but any offer would certainly exceed the CRA’s annual $5 million budget. Any plans to purchase the course would require some long-term financing option.

In its current state, the property is assessed at $2.5 million.

But because the CRA is prohibited from spending money outside its boundaries, the council would have to expand the CRA district to include the golf course and the surrounding property.

The process would require a study to determine the need and consent from all the taxing authorities in the district.

Mary Neilson, who lives near the course and has organized support for keeping the area as a golf course, said the plan leaves her with a lot of questions.

“I want to know about how it’s going to affect the property of The Golf Club and the community around it,” Neilson said.

Expanding the CRA wouldn’t increase property taxes for those in the district, Jacobsen said. It would dictate where the agency could spend its money.

Jacobsen has been speaking with the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit with a $70 million annual operating budget. The company could act as an intermediate buyer, he said. The trust would buy the land from the owners and sell without profit to the CRA. The Trust for Public Land can also act as a bridge between inherently sluggish governmental buyers and the private sector.

“There’s basically three issues,” said William Nolan, a consultant for Florida Gulf Ventures. “The price of the property. Two, what are the people down there going to think about being a part of the CRA. And three, what does the City Council think about expanding the CRA.”

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Land use change proposed for Golf Club pushed back; Vote from P&Z to wait


A controversial proposal to change the land designation of the former Cape Coral Golf Club that would allow the property to be commercially developed has been “temporarily postponed,” according to a consultant for the owner, Florida Gulf Ventures.

The issue was scheduled to come up during today’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, but has been canceled.

“We didn’t think it would be prudent to go through with it at this time,” consultant Bill Nolan said Tuesday. “It’s not been withdrawn at this time but delayed. The proposal is temporarily postponed.”

Florida Gulf Ventures acquired the 177-acre golf course in 2000. The company’s plan to change the golf course’s land designation from parks and recreation to mixed use called for 800 residential units, 325,000 square feet of retail space and 100,000 square feet of office space.

Residents who live nearby the golf course have come out against the plan.

“We would like to see it remain a golf course,” said Cape Coral resident Neil Smith, who lives on the southeast corner of the property.

Smith said he believes the developer pulled the proposal in anticipation of a negative vote by planning and zoning.

“I would interpret this as they did not think it was going to pass,” he said.

The plan’s application process is now on hold as Florida Gulf Ventures reconsiders its options. What exactly those options are remains unclear, although Nolan said the land will eventually be developed.

“Something is going to be done,” he said

Development of Golf Club in Cape Coral handicapped

By Brian Liberatore • • July 23, 2008

Plans to turn a former Cape Coral golf course from green fairways into shops and condos appear trapped in deep rough.

With an apparent lack of support from elected officials and city staff, the owners of the defunct The Golf Club have abandoned plans — for now — to turn the 175 acres into retail space, offices and condominiums.

But exactly what will happen to property and whether it will ever see life again as a golf course are still up in the air. The course, which closed in July 2006, seems destined to remain an overgrown field for at least the next several months.

“We’d like to see it back as a golf course,” said Henry Heerlyn, whose home backs up to the course. “Personally, I wouldn’t be opposed to a park. But the problem is the city has no money.”

The owners are reaching out to the city and residents in an effort to find a compromise that keeps their investment profitable. Over the next week, the company will be looking to form a committee of city officials, elected representatives and neighbors to hammer out ideas for the site, according William Nolan, a consultant for the owners, who are doing business under Florida Gulf Ventures.

“If the community is unhappy with what goes there, it fails,” Nolan said. “The worst thing we could do is build it and they don’t come.”

While open to discussion, a group of surrounding residents, who helped drive resistance to the land use change, shows few signs of bending.

“We’re going to stay fast. We want it to be developed as an 18-hole golf course,” said Joe Mazurkiewicz, owner of BJM Consulting. Under the name Save Our Recreation, neighbors hired Mazurkiewicz, a former Cape Coral mayor, to represent their cause.

An assessment from the city in early 2007 set the land’s value at $28 million for residential uses and about $13.8 million for use as a golf course. The county set the land’s taxable value at $2.8 million this year — $2 million less than two years ago.

Since 2005, the group has paid about $165,000 in property taxes, plus cost of maintaining the property. Heerlyn said the grass on the course is mowed fairly regularly.

Gladys Banderas, who lives next to the course, said she was frustrated by the progress of the course.

“The view now, it’s bad” she said. “When we moved here 12 years ago, the view was very nice.”

Despite the residents’ accusations, the course was mismanaged, Nolan said, adding that the property is not profitable as a golf course.

The course’s owners indicated the club had accumulated a $3 million operating debt in the five years leading up to its closure.

“The bottom line is it just doesn’t work,” Nolan said. People won’t pay the greens fees high enough to keep the property afloat, he said.

The course had been open since the 1960s, was the Cape’s oldest course and a centerpiece of recreational and social activity. It hosted the 1972 NCAA men’s golf championship and numerous other events.

The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission was set to hear a request today from the group to change the zoning. City staff had recommended the commission vote against the change. Members on City Council have echoed the sentiment in recent meetings.

Dolores Bertolini, who represents the district, came out against the mixed-use development plan. Bertolini said she would have liked to see the project go before the planning commission and the council where it likely would have been shot down.

“It’s a continuing saga of what do we do with this property,” Bertolini. “Unfortunately the poor residents of that are left in abeyance.”

Monday, July 21, 2008

Do NOT attend meeting Wednesday, Applicant has Withdrwan

It will NOT be necessary to attend the Planning & Zoning meeting this Wednesday, July 23rd.

Florida Gulf Ventures have withdrawn their application at this time with the option to bring it back in February 2009. I attended the Council meeting tonight. Mayor Feichthaler took Ordinance 87-08 off the agenda and it will NOT go before council on Monday, August 4.

Please make EVERYONE aware that you may have called or emailed and asked to attend the meetings.

Thank you all for your hard work in getting the word out. It was amazing. I heard from enormous number of residents and anticipated a very large crowd. This is fantastic since many residents are summering up north.

I remain committed and will continue to work diligently to Save The Golf Course.

Thank you again.

Best Regards,

Mary Save Our Recreation

Sunday, July 20, 2008


It is IMPORTANT that ALL residents ATTEND this meeting. Call your neighbors & friends today.

Wednesday, July 23rd at 9 a.m.

City Hall in Council Chambers

Ordinance 87-08

The owners/developers, Florida Gulf Ventures, application to amend the future Land Use of the Golf Club from Parks and Recreation to Mixed Use will be heard by the Planning & Zoning Commission this Wednesday, July 23rd at 9 a.m. The commission will vote to recommend denial or approval of the Land Use change at this meeting. It is urgent we have a large number from the community in attendance

I know this will be a very emotional time for everyone. Please remember to be respectful of all speakers and refrain from outbursts and/or applause.

Plan to carpool and wear your Save Our Recreation shirts or something Green.

For those of you out of town, you may view the meeting LIVE Wednesday at 9 a.m. EST. Go to , click on the "quick links" tab and select Cape Tv live from the drop down menu.

Thank you for your continued support and commitment to save the golf course.


Golf Club site gets ‘mixed use’ proposal


The question of what to do with the old Cape Coral Golf Club will come before the Planning and Zoning Commission Wednesday, as officials are expected to decide whether to approve the request of the club’s current owner to turn the club into a mixed use property.

The proposed plan from developer Florida Gulf Ventures, calls for 800 residential units, 325,000 square feet of retail space, and 100,000 square feet of mixed use office space.

P&Z Commissioner Gene Wolfe said the proposed plan has a “beautiful layout,” but density is likely to be a concern.

He added that he does not think the property can continue as a golf course, as area courses have been losing money. But he does think the property is ripe for development, whatever it may turn out to be.

“I say you can’t let it sit idle,” Wolfe said. “The ideal thing would be to have it where you could have everything in there for a convention center. But, where does the money come from? I’ll fight anything that uses city money.”

Save our Recreation, a citizen’s group that wants the property to remain a golf course, will plead its case to the commission on Wednesday.

Former Cape mayor and SOR consultant Joe Mazurkiewicz said re-opening the course would protect surrounding club neighbors and honor the city’s history.

He called the course’s current state a “mess,” and said it was all part of the current owner’s strategy to sell the property for development.

“We understand, as a golf course with the current amenities, there is no way to make it financially feasible,” Mazurkiewicz said, adding that it would be in the best interest of the private sector to develop he course for public use.

Whether the commission as a whole votes to block the developer’s plans remains to be seen, but city officials already are planning a recommendation to deny the project’s progression forward.

Bill Nolan, a consultant for developer Florida Gulf Ventures, declined to comment on Friday.

For Joe Mazurkiewicz, who played the course back in the 1960s, re-opening the course for future generations is a no-brainer.

“If you can’t make a golf course work in the middle of 50,000 people with disposable income in Florida, you’re not doing something right,” he said.

The Planning and Zoning commission will meet at 9 a.m., Wednesday, July 23, in city council chambers.

City planner Wyatt Daltry did not return a phone call seeking comment on the city’s proposed recommendation.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

City planners dislike Cape Coral Golf Club proposal

Owners want to build shops, offices, homes

By Brian Liberatore •

City planners have joined a chorus of neighbors opposing a plan to turn the former Cape Coral Golf Club into a mixed-use development.

The city's Planning and Growth Division this week recommended elected officials vote down a proposal from Florida Gulf Ventures to turn the defunct course, which closed in July 2006, into retail shops, offices and multifamily residences.

The project is set to go before the city's Planning Commission July 23.

"While staff is receptive to the idea of redeveloping the now defunct golf course, the proposed land use amendment has the possibility of permitting too much development for the surrounding residential neighborhood," a report from the city reads.

The report is filed among hundreds of letters stretching back a year from nearby residents all decrying the project.

"This property was a legacy!" wrote Marianne Meyer, who lives near the course.

"This course is very much a part of the history of Cape Coral," wrote C & W Davis. "Find another alternative for development!"

The 175-acre property is now zoned for park and recreation uses. The course, the Cape's oldest, originally opened in the late 1960s.

Florida Golf Ventures asked the city more than a year ago to change the zoning to allow for mixed uses.

With the threat of commercial development looming, hundreds of neighbors last year formed Save Our Recreation, a nonprofit organization with the sole purpose of preserving the course.

"I believe the golf course was managed in a way that it was run down," said Joe Mazurkiewicz, owner of BJM Consulting.

Save Our Recreation members hired Mazurkiewicz, a former Cape Coral mayor, to represent their cause.

"I don't think they (Florida Gulf Ventures) made the effort to run it properly. It's the only golf course in the middle of 50,000 people with disposable incomes. If it was run properly it could have been very successful."

Bill Nolan, a consultant with Florida Gulf Ventures, said the company hasn't changed its strategy.

"The (Planning and Zoning Commission) is going to have their input," he said. "We have cast our die and we have told them what we want to do. Now we see what their reaction is going to be."

City planners noted the use change would require major upgrades to infrastructure, contradicts the city's comprehensive plans and might disrupt well-established neighborhoods.

The final decision on the land change rests with the City Council.

Mazurkiewicz said the group's intentions are understandable. The course, he estimated, was worth about $12 or $14 million as a golf course. Maybe more.

"With a mixed use land use, it's close to $100 million," he said. "There's a lot of money on the table."

Monday, June 16, 2008


Ordinance 87-08 The owners/developers, Florida Gulf Ventures, application to amend the future land use of the Golf Club from Parks and Recreation to Mixed Use has been placed on the Wednesday, JULY 23rd Planning & Zoning agenda. The P & Z meeting will begin at 9 a.m. at city hall in the council chambers. ALL residents concerned are urged to attend. This date is over a month away and gives you all plenty of time to tell your neighbors and friends. Please plan to carpool and wear your Save Our Recreation shirts or something green. I will have a limited supply of Save Our Recreation shirts available at the door at 8:45 a.m. As always, thank you for your continued support and commitment to save the golf course. Mary

Monday, April 28, 2008


Dear Friends, Neighbors and Concerned Citizens,

The owner/developer, Florida Gulf Ventures is moving forward with their application for rezoning The Golf Club property to mixed use (commercial, retail & residential). Although I don't have the specific dates confirmed, it appears staff will have agenda backup material to the planning and zoning department 2 weeks prior to their meeting date of June 4 or July 2. Once it has gone to P & Z it will be brought before City Council at the second Large Tract Land Amendments Meeting on a date to be determined after council returns from hiatus July 14th. Possibly as early as July 15th. I will notify everyone of the exact dates and times of these meetings when I have confirmation. It is imperative that we attend in force. I'm sure the owners of the Golf Club think we have forgotten about them, but I can tell you from the emails and calls I receive every day it is not the case.

All petitions and opposition letters have been delivered to the City. I believe the number to be over 1000 signatures & letters. I have City stamped receipts, copied all and I will bring to both meetings.

Thank you all for being patient and respectful of the Mayor and Council and your continued commitment to save the golf course.



Save Our Recreation

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Opposition Letter Campaign

If you have not written your letter in opposition to the Land Use change of the former Golf Club property (4003 Palm Tree Blvd.) from Parks and Recreation to Mixed Use(Commercial, Retail, Multi-Family) you still have time. It is URGENT we let the planners and city leaders know we stand together and are against this application.

Please address your letters to;
City of Cape Coral
Department of Community Development
Reference: LU 07-01000015
It is important that you send the letters to me, as I will copy and hand deliver to the city in order to obtain a receipt. Your letter need not be long but should include the Reference # LU 07-01000015. Be sure to have each member of your household write a separate letter. Please take a moment to spread the word of this campaign. Start the Chain Alert. Phone 3 friends and tell 3 neighbors and ask them to do the same.
For your convenience you may FAX, mail or drop off your letters to my office. Banyan Trace residents may drop them at the Condo office.

Century 21 Birchwood Attn: Mary Neilson
4040 Del Prado Blvd S
Cape Coral, FL 33904
FAX; 239-542-7760 Attn: Mary Neilson

Friday, February 29, 2008


If you have changed your email address recently and/or would like to be added to the Save Our Recreation Info broadcast email me at In SUBJECT space please type 'ADD TO BROADCAST'. You may also click EMAIL & VOLUNTEER on the right side of the site. Thank you, Mary


Update on the application for mixed use. My email to Wyatt
Daltry and his reply.
I will notify everyone in May when I have a confirmed date and time to

Thank you.

Dear Wyatt,

Any news on this application for mixed use of the Golf Club? Status,
Changes and/or Date for hearing. Thank you.



Save Our Recreation

Hi Mary,

We recently met with the applicants and their representatives.
Unfortunately, it appears as though the applicant wishes to do what is
most flexible for them, which is to move forward with their request as
applied, instead of setting aside some properties as Parks and
Recreation as advised.

The applicant wishes to meet with staff to discuss this further; while I
understand their motives for requesting their change, it is our
professional duty to support only those amendments which can bring the
necessary services to Cape Coral without intruding into a
well-established neighborhood such as that found in the vicinity of the
Golf Club. Feel free to check with me periodically, as you have, about
the status of this amendment. This is scheduled for the "second window"
of large scale land use amendments, which is tentatively scheduled for

Wyatt Daltry, AICP
Planner III
Department of Community Development
City of Cape Coral
(239) 573-3160 (phone)
(239) 574-0594 (fax)

Friday, January 04, 2008

Golf Club Mixed Use Application Update

Happy New Year,

I wanted to share a communication with you all.

I emailed Mr Daltry and asked the status of the application for mixed use of the former Golf Club by Florida Gulf Ventures. His response is copied below.


This case has been delayed to the 2nd window of calendar year 2008.
Tentative public hearing dates have not been assigned, but are estimated
to be in June. The applicant had requested that this be delayed while
they re-evaluate their proposal, which I think is positive.

Wyatt Daltry, AICP
Planner III
Department of Community Development
City of Cape Coral

I will keep you updated. Thank you for your continued support and commitment to Save The Golf Course.


Save Our Recreation