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."