Saturday, December 05, 2009

December Update

As you may have read in media, Florida Gulf Ventures has filed suit against the City of Cape Coral.

The property owners are simply making sure that all options they have are being pursued. The suit against the City is based upon the denial by the Planning and Zoning Board of a land use change, which is necessary before the property can be rezoned. This type of suit is a common strategy that many land owners follow in moving forward with efforts to negotiate the sale of land that they are also seeking to develop.

At the moment, the City has asked the court to dismiss the suit on the basis that the developer has come to the City only once--with only one request, and has not returned with a different proposal—that they have yet to exhaust their administrative remedies, and therefore the suit is premature. The City feels the suit is premature because all that the court knows is that one proposal was denied. The court does not know if another proposal would be accepted—and if it would, then there would be no “taking.” So, the City is asking for a dismissal at this time because it is premature.

The CRA is still interested in acquiring the property, and the delay in the negotiations is the result of the death of CRA Legal Counsel David Cardwell, who was leading the negotiations for the CRA. In fact, David’s last conference call with the owners was Friday, October 30th, just shortly before his death.

The Trust for Public Lands continues to support the efforts of the CRA, and has communicated a willingness to assist as needed at the appropriate time.

In January, the CRA Board will seat 3 new members. They will need to be educated about the history of the golf course property negotiations. In addition, there are new members of Council, and they also need to be educated about the issues and the history of the efforts of the CRA to comply with Council and Community desires to acquire the property to restore the golf course use.

Save Our Recreation will continue to work in concert with the CRA to achieve our goal. SOR also continues to utilize the services of BJM Consultants. A fund raiser is currently in the works for some time after the 1st of the year. Stay tuned. If you would care to send in a donation now, please see the right side of this blog for instructions or email me at All donations big or small would be very much appreciated.

I'll update again with any new developments.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year


Thursday, October 01, 2009

CRA suspends plans to buy golf course

Negotiations temporarily on hold; site’s owners have filed suit against the city over denial of land use change


Florida Gulf Venture, the owner of the Golf Club of Cape Coral, has filed a lawsuit against the city over the municipality's refusal to approve a land use change.

The lawsuit, filed Monday, is based on the premise of inverse condemnation, or when government decision impacts private property but fails to compensate.

Florida Gulf Ventures is now seeking compensation from the city in the Circuit Court of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit.

"Their contention is that we aren't allowing them to use the property the way they think it should be used," said Mayor Jim Burch. "My position is simple: That the property had a land use on it for many years."

Burch couldn't go into too much detail on a pending lawsuit, but said in his opinion the lawsuit is a procedural move.

The Community Redevelopment Agency has been issued a copy of the complaint, even though they aren't party to the lawsuit. According to John Jacobsen, executive director of the CRA, the agency's plans to acquire the golf course will be suspended pending the next board meeting on Oct. 20.

Jacobsen said the suspension shouldn't affect the acquisition of the property.

"They announced this way back, that they would pursue litigation, this is no surprise," he said.

The first round of negotiations between Florida Gulf Venture and a CRA intermediary that was to be the actual purchaser of the site on the CRA's behalf, was unsuccessful when the entities could not agree on a purchase price.

The CRA said it would continue its efforts.

Meanwhile, the city council voted to add the golf course to the boundaries of the CRA in August.

During another meeting on Sept. 21, the city council amended the CRA's redevelopment plan to address the acquisition process and development of the course.

Cape sued over golf course stand

Owners wanted mixed-use facility

By Brian Liberatore • • October 1, 2009

The owners of a defunct golf course want Cape Coral taxpayers to bail out their investment.

A group of investors operating as Florida Gulf Ventures is seeking millions in damages from the city after the City Council decided they couldn’t build a mixed-use facility on the former The Golf Club.

The 175-acre course in south Cape has been closed since 2006.

Those familiar with the case say the suit is more likely part of a hardball negotiating strategy as the investors look to sell the course to the Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency.

“I believe their strategy will be to use (the suit) as a hammer to bang local elected officials into abandoning any hopes of preserving the golf course into perpetuity,” said Joe Mazurkiewicz, a consultant representing a group of nearby residents. “It’s completely expected.”

A seven-page lawsuit filed Monday in Lee County Circuit Court claims that the course “could not (in 2006) or in the foreseeable future” be operated as a golf course without losing money. And because city zoning says the property can only be used as a golf course, park or sports field, the government is preventing any “reasonable economic use” of the property.

“The argument is that the effect of the city’s regulation in effect is taking (the course) for public purpose,” said Michael J. Ciccarone, a Fort Myers attorney who filed the suit for Florida Golf Ventures.

After unsuccessful attempts to sell the course, the investors have pushed the city to change what can be built on the property. City planners, council members and community members rejected plans for a multi-use development claiming there wasn’t adequate infrastructure and it didn’t fit in with the heavy residential nature of the neighborhood. Neighbors around the course insist it must remain green forever.

That’s not fair to the owners, said Randy Thibaut, CEO of Land Solutions in Cape Coral.

“As a golf course it doesn’t work,” Thibaut said. “If nobody is going to buy it, you have to find some other use of the property. You can’t hold the owner hostage.”

But Fort Myers developer Ross W. McIntosh pointed out that the high-density, mixed-use development proposed by the owners never made sense in the location.
“It has no access, no exposure,” McIntosh said. “You don’t usually build high density, mixed-use in the middle of a block.”

McIntosh said the developer should look toward a compromise, something along the lines of moderate or low-density housing.

The owners bought the course — Cape Coral’s oldest — in 2006 and closed it shortly afterward. They have about $9 million invested in the property, court records show. The property is assessed by Lee County for $2.8 million.

The owners, who originally wanted over $20 million for the property, haven’t specified how much they’re looking for in damages, but Ciccarone said, “I think it’s generally understood that it’s in the millions.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Community Redevelopment Plan approved by council

Decision may pave way for takeover of Golf Club


The Cape Coral City Council approved a number of motions Monday night that will help to improve the city's southern district overseen by the Community Redevelopment Agency.

The council approved the new Community Redevelopment Plan. It allows the agency to begin the process of taking control over the historic Golf Club of Cape Coral after the agency's boundaries were expanded in June.

"It is the heart of the city. That golf course, in my opinion, is something that can generate that growth we need," said Mayor Jim Burch.

The Golf Club, owned by Florida Golf Ventures, has been closed for three years. The Redevelopment Trust, paid for by tax increment funds from residents living around the golf course, will front the funds for the course and the CRA will enter into a lease-purchase agreement.

"Over a period of years the title will be transferred to the CRA," said John Jacobsen, executive director of the CRA. "I don't see where it would become a burden to the city."

Councilmember Bill Deile said he is concerned about whether city funds would subsidize the golf course.

The city works off of a tax base of approximately $540 million and any revenue from incremental changes to that tax roll is given to the CRA, explained Mark Mason, financial services director.

Jacobsen said 10 separate golf course operating companies have been contacted and that the agency would sub-lease maintenance of the course to the company chosen. The costs could range from $1.5 million to $5 million to rehabilitate the grounds, he said.

A large group of south Cape Coral residents attended Monday's City Council meeting and stood in approval of the golf course takeover. Some residents, though, spoke out against the deal, stating that golf courses are failing across the country and that now isn't the time for the city to become entangled in the takeover.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cape Coral council allows group to buy golf course, but sale still in limbo • September 21, 2009

The Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency’s plan to take over the Golf Club passed another hurdle tonight. But the most daunting barrier – a purchase agreement – is still holding up the deal.

“It might take a month, it might take six months, it might take a year,” said CRA Executive Director John Jacobsen. “But I’ve very confident we will close this deal.”

The City Council tonight approved the CRA’s plan for the property around the golf course and allowed the CRA to start collecting money for project. The CRA is funded through taxes from increased property values. The agency can only take action that is a part of its master plan, which the council must approve.

The course’s owner Florida Gulf Venture closed the 175-acre course nearly three years ago saying the course was a money losing venture.

The property could become profitable, consultant and former mayor Joe Mazurkiewicz said, with the addition of a hotel, conference center or both.

“I’m optimistic now that the CRA’s got their hands in it,” said Ray Borkowski, whose house abuts the course.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Please Plan to attend this Meeting

Monday September 21 at 4:30

Council chamber at city hall

On September 21, the Cape Coral City Council will be addressing two ordinances relating to the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) ability to purchase the golf course property. The Council has already approved the CRA boundary expansion, and now pursuant to State Statute has before it the Redevelopment Plan Amendment and the modification of the CRA Trust Fund. These two proposed ordinances must be passed to give the CRA the ability to move forward with negotiations to purchase the golf course property. If they are not passed, it effectively terminates the ability of the CRA to continue efforts to acquire the golf course property. The Council vote on September 21 is therefore critical to the future of Cape Coral, as it is in reality a yes or no vote on the preservation of the golf course.

One ordinance before the Council is to approve the Redevelopment Plan Amendment that includes the acquisition of the golf course and its operation as a golf course. The other ordinance is the amendment of the Tax Increment Trust Fund to allow the collection of the increase in real estate taxes from the boundary expansion area, funds that will support the debt service payments on the financing needed to purchase the golf course property.

It is critical that you contact each Council Member and let them know of your support for their passage of the two ordinances to allow the CRA the ability to continue negotiations to purchase the golf course.

Last year, as the golf course property owners were preparing to seek a land use and zoning change for the golf course property, the City sought the CRA assistance to preserve the golf course in a golf course use. The CRA was willing to help, and has diligently worked to fulfill the City’s desires regarding the golf course property.

The critical issue, however, is that the Florida law governing CRAs prohibits a CRA from spending money outside its boundaries, and the boundaries of the Cape Coral CRA did not include the golf course property.

In order to give the CRA the ability to negotiate and purchase the property, the City Council hired a consultant to undertake a “Finding of Necessity” study to examine the conditions in the area surrounding the golf course as well as other areas surrounding the CRA boundary that were already being considered for inclusion within the CRA. The State legislative mandate for any CRA is to alleviate blight, and the Finding of Necessity Study done for the City Council identified the statutorily required blight conditions that allowed the City Council to expand the boundary of the CRA to include the golf course property.

Now the CRA can move forward with the negotiations, but Florida law also mandates that a CRA cannot act on a major project unless the project is in their Redevelopment Plan. The first ordinance being considered by the Council is the amendment to the Cape Coral Redevelopment Plan that includes the golf course purchase and operation as a golf course as a project of the CRA. The second ordinance, also required by Florida law, provides the CRA with the financial ability to purchase the golf course. The second proposed ordinance is the amendment to the Cape Coral CRA Trust Fund that allows the collection of the property tax increase from the boundary expansion area so that these funds collected from the properties most affected by the use of the golf course property can be used to pay for the acquisition of the property.

Again, the Council meeting on September 21 is critical to the future of Cape Coral. It is the yes or no decision on allowing the CRA to continue on the path to golf course property acquisition.

Please contact each and every Council Member to let them know of your support for the passage of these two ordinances. You may reach the Mayor and all council members by sending your message to

If you have any questions concerning this request, please contact CRA Executive Director John Jacobsen at 239-549-5615.


There will be a primary run off for the position of Mayor and the council seat for District 6 to bring the field down to 2 in each, at the November election. It is VERY IMPORTANT that you vote in the primary, Sept 15th. If you will be out of town I have posted instructions to Vote by Mail in the previous post.

Mayoral candidates;


District 6



Wednesday, August 26, 2009

CRA embarks on purchasing golf course sans intermediary

Board to get appraiser to assess value of land


The Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency will attempt to buy The Golf Course on its own after talks with a potential intermediary buyer broke down last month.

CRA officials met Tuesday with representatives of Florida Gulf Venture, the current owner of the 175-acre parcel in the southeast Cape, to discuss the possible purchase.

"This was the first time ... that they actually sat down to negotiate with us directly," said John Jacobsen, executive director of the CRA.

Later Tuesday, CRA board members voted unanimously to hire an appraiser to assess the value of the property.

A separate appraiser for Florida Gulf Venture will conduct its own appraisal. The two parties will then try to reconcile the numbers and come to an agreement on the price.

Florida Gulf Venture's first attempt to sell the course to the Trust for Public Lands, a nonprofit organization the CRA wanted to use as an intermediary buyer, fell through due to an impasse over the price.

Representatives of Florida Gulf Venture and the Trust for Public Lands have declined to divulge the monetary values involved in the negotiations.

Jacobsen said the parties also could not agree on a methodology of appraisal, which contributed to the dissolution of the talks.

"The appraisal has never been completed," he said.

The CRA planned to use the Trust for Public Lands to buy the golf course and pay the nonprofit back over time to avoid incurring debt in the course of the purchase.

Now, however, the CRA will look into bonds and other loans to pay for the golf course.

But a purchase price must first be agreed upon, and the breakdown in negotiations has delayed the purchase by several months, Jacobsen said.

Despite the setback, residents who live nearby the golf course are in favor of the CRA's plan to buy the course and restore it.

Florida Gulf Venture shut down the course three years ago because it was losing money.

Residents with property close to the course say the subsequent overgrowth and decay of the area has contributed to falling home values, becoming a blight on the neighborhood.

Save Our Recreation, a group of nearby residents dedicated to restoring the golf course, has consistently spoken out against Florida Gulf Venture's attempts to develop the land.

"Save Our Recreation is behind the CRA 100 percent," said Mary Neilson, president of Save Our Recreation.

City officials are also supportive of the plan. Mayor Jim Burch, city council liaison to the CRA, said he is confident the CRA will not be overloaded with debt if it purchases the golf course.

"They have good leadership. They have good legal advice, so I'm sure that whatever they do it's going to be financially viable for them," he said.

Cape golf course negotiations back on the table • August 25, 2009

Don’t reserve your tee time yet. But city officials say there is again hope the defunct Golf Club of Cape Coral could reopen.

The course’s owners Tuesday morning met with officials from the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency with the hope that they could hash out a deal to put the course in public hands. The meeting comes a month after representatives with Florida Gulf Venture, the course’s owner, walked away from the negotiating table.

Kent Carlson and Mark Anderson, partners with the investment group, met CRA executive director John Jacobsen and consultant Frank Schnidman Tuesday at the CRA’s downtown office.

“They looked at us and said we’re here to let you know we want to make this deal work,” Schnidman said. “In all of real estate negotiations it’s a matter of posturing. They let us know they wanted to make this happen. We let them know we’re going to this in a transparent, honest way.”

The course’s owners shuttered the course in 2006 claiming it was no longer profitable. Attempts to sell the course, however, fell through. The course has since sat vacant succumbing to weeds and neglect. The clubhouse is no longer standing.

Jacobsen last year proposed expanding the CRA to encompass the course 175-acre course, breaking the stalemate.

The CRA brought in the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit land conservation group, to handle the negotiations and act as an interim buyer. In July, the owners cut off negotiations with the trust after the two couldn’t agree on a price. Neither side disclosed the asking price. Carlson did say in a letter, however, that the owners were asking for 35 to 50 percent more than the trust was offering.

For the latest round of negotiations with the CRA, both groups will hire an appraiser. With the numbers on the table, the groups can then begin serious negotiations on a price. The property this year is assessed at about $2.8 million for tax purposes.

“I still feel that there’s a future for the golf course,” said councilwoman Dolores Bertolini. “ And I think that when all avenues have been explored by the owner, it will return to what it once was.”

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

City, CRA seek to revive negotiations on The Golf Course

Trust for Public Lands no longer to play part


Cape Coral city officials are hoping negotiations to sell The Golf Course can be restarted after they broke down last month.

Florida Gulf Venture, owner of the 175-acre site of the golf course in the southeast Cape, had signed a purchase agreement with the nonprofit Trust for Public Lands in April.

It pulled away from that agreement last month, balking at TPL's maximum price, which was 30 percent to 50 percent less than the asking price.

Representatives for Florida Gulf Venture and TPL have declined to divulge the monetary values involved in the negotiations.

Councilmember Dolores Bertolini sat down with Florida Gulf Venture representatives Monday, and said any deal with TPL is dead.
"They've suspended any negotiations with TPL," she said.

But that does not mean the plan to purchase and refurbish the golf course, which was shut down three years ago due to lack of profitability, is over.

Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency officials will meet with Florida Gulf Venture today to discuss the possible purchase of the course.

The CRA had originally intended to use the TPL as an intermediary buyer, paying the organization back over time. With a budget of $4.7 million this year, the CRA's buying power is limited.

John Jacobsen, executive director of the CRA, said Florida Gulf Venture is anxious to get a deal done. "The deal is by no means dead. They asked for this meeting, we didn't ask for this meeting," he said.

There seem to be little alternatives for Florida Gulf Venture or the city.

The city has repeatedly denied Florida Gulf Venture a land use change in order to develop the property, something nearby residents vehemently oppose.

But the city, given its recent budget struggles, is not likely to augment any money the CRA can throw at buying the tract.

Yet officials remain optimistic.

"We're going to see what they have to offer in the morning," Jacobsen said.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hurry!!! Absentee Voters How To Request A Ballot By Mail


To request a Ballot By Mail, or for answers to questions, that are not covered below, please call our Absentee Department at 239-533-6919 or by fax at 239-533-6913.

Any registered voter in Lee County may request a Ballot by Mail. Requests for these ballots may be submitted for single, multiple, or all elections within a calendar year.
Only the voter, a designated member of his/her immediate family, or legal guardian can request a ballot for the voter. Immediate family means: the voter's spouse, parent, child, grandparent, sibling, or legal guardian.

A request from the voter must include the following information:

*Date Of Birth
*Driver's License Number
*Last 4 Digits Of Social Security Number (Optional)
*Address and telephone number where the ballot is to be sent;

Note: The post office will not forward ballots. Ballots will be mailed approximately 3 weeks prior to each election, please provide the address you will be residing at during this time.

*Election(s) Requested
*Signature (written request only)

If the voter has designated an immediate family member or legal guardian to request a ballot, the designee must provide the following information:

*Driver's License Number
*Relationship To Voter
*Signature (written request only)


Ballots must be returned to the Main Office of the Lee County Supervisor of Elections, in person or by mail no later than 7 p.m. on Election Day.

A VOTED BALLOT CANNOT BE ACCEPTED AT A POLLING PLACE ! If you have received a Ballot By Mail and then choose to vote in person at an early voting site or on Election Day, you must surrender the ballot you received in the mail.


When early voting is available, a qualified voter may vote in person at a designated early voting site. The voter must present both picture and signature identification.


Fort Myers Main Office
2480 Thompson St – 3rd Floor
Fort Myers
239-LEE-VOTE (239-533-8683)

Cape Coral Branch Office
1031 S E 9th Pl #3
Cape Coral

Bonita Springs Branch Office
Coconut Commerce Center
24951 Old U S 41 Rd
Bonita Springs

Election Center Branch Office
13180 Cleveland Avenue
Fort Myers


Send Ballot To: Date of Request: Florida Voter Registration:
(1 Request Per Form)
Last Name First Name Middle
Date of Birth Drivers License # or last 4 digits of SS # Phone Number
City State Zip Code


Complete the portion below ONLY if you requested the above ballot for someone other than yourself.



CALL: 239-533-6919 OR FAX: 239-533-6913

MAIN OFFICE ALTERNATE NUMBERS: CALL: 239-533-8683 OR FAX: 239-533-6322


Ballots will be mailed approximately 3 weeks prior to each election.
Please provide the address you will be residing at during this time.

Last Name First Name Middle
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Address City State Zip Code
Relationship to Voter: Signature:



Only 1 address may be used for a four year request.
If the ballots need to go to different addresses, depending
on the time of the year they are sent , then
you will need to contact our office each year to
request an annual Ballot-By-Mail

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Redevelopment plan to P&Z Video

CRA advisor, Frank Schnidman, explains the redevelopment plan to the Planning
and Zoning commission.

Watch from approx 9 minutes in for about 45 minutes.

Video only works for Windows users on Internet Explorer.


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

City board approves Cape Coral CRA's plans for Golf Club

news-press • August 5, 2009

Cape Coral’s Community Redevelopment Agency passed another bureaucratic hurdle today on its way to owning the defunct Golf Club of Cape Coral.

But the step forward comes after negotiations with the course’s owners took a step back.

The owners, doing business as Florida Gulf Venture, last month walked away from the negotiating table, saying they wanted more for the property.

“In all honesty we’re going to end up with a golf course,” said CRA consultant Frank Schnidman. “It’s just going to take time.”

In order for the CRA - a pseudo-governmental agency - to purchase the 175-acre course, it needed to expand its district borders to envelope the course and it needed approval for its plans.

Both the Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council have already endorsed the expansion. Tuesday, the planning board agreed that the plan fit into the city’s comprehensive plan - a minor but necessary step.

While the local government appears behind the plan to transfer the course to public hands, the course’s owners are holding out for more money. That tactic, Schnidman said, will get them nowhere.

While the owners have not disclosed their asking price, Schnidman said it’s likely somewhere between Lee County’s assessment of the property, $2.8 million, and the mortgage on the property, which is in the neighborhood of $10 million.

“Like anyone else who bought land in 2004, they (Florida Gulf Venture) overpaid,” Schnidman said. “This is a CRA that has a responsibility to wisely use our resources, not bail out a real estate investor’s scheme.”

Monday, August 03, 2009


Planning and Zoning will discuss the redevelopment plan and its consistency with the city's comprehensive plan in order to allow the CRA to purchase the golf course.

This will be 1st up on the agenda. Please be there promptly at 9 a.m.

Place; City Hall council chambers

Date; Wednesday, August 5th

Time; 9 a.m.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Golf Course deal falls through


The future of The Golf Course in southeast Cape Coral is once again in doubt as negotiations to sell the property fell through Monday.

Florida Gulf Ventures, the owner of the 175-acre site of the golf course, sent a letter to the Trust for Public Land, the non-profit organization looking to buy the course, indicating its termination of a purchase agreement.

The two parties had signed a purchase agreement on April 7 which outlined the appraisal methodology, but both sides are now at an impasse over the price and appraisal methods used.

"Florida Gulf Venture is very disappointed that TPL is unable to move forward with the terms as negotiated, and has in fact requested a reduction in our price by 30 -50 percent," the letter reads, in part.

The purchase of the golf course was to be one of the first steps in a plan to restore the course, which has been shut down for the past two years by Florida Gulf Ventures due to lack of profitability.

Under the plan, the Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency would buy the course from TPL and lease the course to a private company. The company would then restore the golf course and build a hotel and other amenities to attract players and make the course economically viable.

Now that plan appears in jeopardy, but CRA executive director John Jacobsen still has faith a deal can be struck between the parties.

"I'm very confident that we're going to get there. I think it's going to be deliberated for some time," Jacobsen said.

Jacobsen is nonetheless frustrated with the negotiation tactics he says have been used by Florida Gulf Ventures. In a memo sent Tuesday to CRA board members and city council members, he questioned the company's seriousness in the negotiation process.

"A major problem in this process to date has been that TPL ... has apparently had to deal with negotiators who are unwilling to negotiate, but with the logic of a two year old, wants what they want," the memo reads, in part.

William Nolan, president of WPN & Associates, a consulting firm representing Florida Gulf Ventures, agreed negotiations would continue.

"There is some continuing dialogue with the CRA. Where that's going to go, I don't know," Nolan said.

The exact difference in price between the TPL and Florida Gulf Ventures has not been divulged by either party. Nolan said he was not involved in the financial negotiations.

Representatives for the TPL could not be reached Tuesday.

The CRA's plan to acquire the golf course is contingent on TPL's ability to buy the course from Florida Gulf Ventures.

"That was the whole crux of the plan to have the TPL buy the golf course and then lease it to the CRA," said City Councilmember Dolores Bertolini, a main proponent of efforts to restore the golf course.

Meanwhile, the CRA has annexed the golf course and surrounding area - nearly tripling its size in the process - to be positioned to buy the course. State statutes prevent the CRA from spending money outside its boundaries.

There does not appear to be a back-up plan for the CRA should the TPL prove unable to buy the property, but Jacobsen said it was still prudent to annex the area because the deal will go through eventually.

"We need to be at the ready to purchase this golf course," Jacobsen said.

Cape Coral Golf Club owners seeking mulligan

They end talks with trust, hope to work with Cape

By Brian Liberatore • • July 29, 2009

The best and perhaps last hope of saving what once was The Golf Club of Cape Coral is unraveling.

But officials say there is reason to believe the 175-acre course could wind up in public hands, rehabilitated and reopened.

The property’s owners, Florida Gulf Venture, want more money before it’ll relinquish the defunct course to the public. On Monday, the owners terminated a purchase agreement with the Trust for Public Lands, a national nonprofit which was negotiating on behalf of the Community Redevelopment Agency.

The trust specializes in preserving green spaces and has the resources to purchase the property and transfer it to the CRA over time at no extra cost to taxpayers.

“I think this is just a stage in the negotiations,” said CRA executive director John Jacobsen. “It’s not over. There’s no place else for them (Florida Gulf Venture) to go.”

The course’s owners closed the course in 2006, claiming it was not profitable. Attempts to turn the land into a mixed-use development or sell it as a golf facility failed, as did efforts to sell the property.

The course has devolved into a weed patch weighing down the value of nearby property.

Late last year, the CRA announced plans to resurrect the facility and brought in the Trust for Public Land to negotiate a deal.

But after 11 months of negotiations, the owners and the trust could not settle on a price. In a July 27 letter from Ryan Companies on behalf of Florida Golf Ventures, company V.P. Kent Carlson wrote, “Florida Gulf Venture is very disappointed that TPL is unable to move forward with the terms as negotiated, and has in fact requested a reduction in our price by 30-50 percent.”

Neither side would disclose the amount of the purchase price. The property this year is assessed at about $2.8 million for tax purposes.

Save our Recreation, a group of neighbors that has organized to preserve the property as a golf course, is holding to the position.

“If (the owners) are sitting there and trying to hold the city and everybody else hostage, fine,” said Joe Mazurkiewicz, who represents the group. “We’ll wait them out. We’re not spending any money. It’s clear that the city is united in that this will be nothing but a golf course.”

(2 of 2)

Carlson’s letter goes on to say company officials had hoped the trust could secure federal and private grants to boost the purchase price. But the assumption anyone would issue a grant to boost the owners’ profits, Jacobsen said, is ridiculous.

“Any state, federal or private grants that (the Trust for Public Lands) would seek would be on the CRA’s behalf for the ultimate purchase of the property,” Jacobsen wrote in a memo Tuesday to the City Council, “not as a gift to the investors to meet any made-up value they placed on the property above what the property was worth.”

While the owners have severed negotiations with the trust, they’re still hoping to work with the CRA.

“There is some discussions with the CRA on other options,” said William Nolan, a consultant speaking on behalf of the owners.

But the CRA, Jacobsen said, is in not position to offer more for the course than the trust.

“I’m sorry that they couldn’t come to an agreement, but I suspect that calmer heads will prevail and they’ll come back to the table,” Jacobsen said. “We’ll get there. It just seems we’re going to be a little longer until we come to a solution.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Termination Letter

See PDF Attachment to read the termination letter.

View as Image:

View as PDF: termination_letter_20090727.pdf

John R. Jacobsen's response to termination letter


To: City Council, CRA Board of Commissioners

From: John R. Jacobsen

Date: July 28, 2009

Re: The next phase of the negotiation process for the former Golf Club Property: posturing and/or bluffing

Last night, July 27, 2009, I received a copy of a letter from the Ryan Companies on behalf of Florida Golf Ventures to the Trust for Public Land unilaterally terminating the Purchase Agreement with the Trust. TPL and Florida Golf Ventures had signed a Purchase Agreement on April 7, 2009, after months of negotiations for a purchase price desired by Florida Golf Ventures, and to be confirmed by an agreed upon appraisal methodology.

We understand that one of the major delays in the negotiation process has been the unwillingness of the appraiser to provide a professional opinion of value. This unwillingness by the appraiser has resulted in a serious problem in determining a value under the Agreement. Florida Golf Ventures sought a value we understand that was in effect seeking a bonanza based upon the unsupported allegation that they could place a regional mixed use shopping/office complex on the Golf Club parcel--with a mixture of densities and intensities so huge for the site that no realistic market study would come close to justifying this dream, unless you were to say that this truly "transportation access-challenged site" could capture ALL of the market demand for the entire region, and then some. The appraiser and the parties were unable, as we understand, to come to an agreement on methodologies on which to base the appraisal that would justify such a value, and therefore the appraisal has yet to be completed.

Despite that, as we understand, TPL made a firm offer based on a previous appraisal done for Florida Gulf Ventures’ bank over a year ago when the property was in the process of refinancing. While the CRA is not privy to the negotiations between the two parties, we understand there had been some progress made.

This unilateral termination by Florida Golf Ventures in no way ends the negotiations, as we believe this is just another strategy on the part of the seller to try to get a higher price or an attempt to negotiate without TPL’s involvement, and directly with the CRA in the hope that the CRA will offer a better price than one offered by the Trust. We believe that the Trust will remain open to further discussion despite the termination of this Agreement, and look forward to a new round of talks between TPL and Florida Golf Ventures.

It is important to note that the termination letter indicates that there are some basic misunderstandings on the part of the seller. This may have been wishful thinking on their part or simply a desire to get a price higher than an appraisal would justify. “Florida Gulf Venture entered into the agreement with the understanding that TPL, with its resources and relationships, had access to state, federal and private grants to fill any gap between the community's expectation and ours. To date, we have not seen the benefit of your relationships to fulfill those early commitments.”

Any state, federal or private grants that TPL would seek would be on the CRA’s behalf for the ultimate purchase of the property, not as a gift to the investors to meet any made-up value they placed on the property above what the property was worth. It is also important to make clear that this process was not about the “community’s expectations and ours,” as Florida Golf Ventures states, it was about negotiating a fair price based upon the appraised value of the land.

As TPL staff and CRA staff discussed at a recent meeting held with the knowledge and consent of Florida Golf Ventures, without an appraisal, and with Florida Golf Ventures having prepared a preliminary plan that was not approved by P&Z and such denial affirmed upon appeal to Council, the only document that provided any indication of value was the appraisal done more than a year ago on the same property. This is the appraisal that the owners commissioned in relation to the refinancing of the property, an appraisal that TPL had permission from the owners to show the CRA staff.

As we understand, TPL’s offer, based upon that year old appraisal, was indeed generous--but one that at least was supported by an appraisal, rather than simply a real estate speculator's dream payday.

Now that the owners have unilaterally terminated the Purchase Agreement, we will have to wait and see what they will do next.

This is likely just a step in their negotiation process. A major problem in this process to date has been that TPL with its experience and maturity in negotiating real estate acquisitions, has apparently had to deal with negotiators who are unwilling to negotiate, but with the logic of a two year old, wants what they want. This is problematic, as their apparent lack of sophistication means that we can not be sure what move they may make next--as it may be motivated by inexperience and emotion, rather than logic.

The reality of the 2009 Cape Coral real estate market rather than the mentality of the 2004-era hype may soon come to the owners, but it could take longer . . . at this point I can only suggest patience--the Cape Coral real estate market at the moment seems to indicate that little will happen with the property, and we can wait until the owners decide what path to pursue.

Do understand that as the Executive Director to the CRA, I am not speaking for the Board as it has not taken up this matter, and has deferred to TPL to use its expertise and experience to handle this matter. I write to simply update you and to express my personal opinion based upon my sporadic interaction with the TPL/Florida Golf Ventures negotiations.

Know that I remain very confident that the property will ultimately be acquired by the CRA and we will be able to begin restoration of the Golf Club. In the interim, the CRA will continue with our commitments to pursue the legal requirements that will allow the CRA to acquire the property.

A copy of the letter of the Purchase Agreement Termination Letter is attached.


John R. Jacobsen
Executive Director

Community Redevelopment Agency of Cape Coral
1231 Cape Coral Parkway
Cape Coral, FL 33904
239 549-5615

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Please plan to attend Tuesday evening.

The Second Public CRA Workshop

Golf Club to be discussed

Tuesday, July 14th, 6:30 pm

Cape Coral Board of Realtors

918 SE 46th Lane (Park in rear at Club Square)

See you there!


Friday, June 26, 2009


Come to hear the results of the June 25th CRA workshop that in included discussions on the golf course property. Stayed involved & committed make your community the best it can be.

Place: Cape Coral Borad of Realtors
918 SE 46th Lane (parking in rear)

Time: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 14th

See you there. Thank you.


CRA asks public for ideas on revamping golf course

Negotiations ongoing of sale of land


The Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency is looking for ideas from residents on how best to refurbish the golf course and surrounding area that was incorporated into its boundaries earlier this month.

A public workshop held Thursday encouraged residents to provide input on remodeling efforts for the 175-acre area formerly known as The Golf Course.

Shut down two years ago for its apparent lack of economic viability, restoring the course has been a high priority for nearby residents.

Besides typical golf course amenities like a clubhouse, hotel, convention center and restaurant, an environmental park and other uses of open spaces to use in tandem with the course were also discussed during the workshop.

"I want to hear some of the out-of-the-box ideas," Councilmember Dolores Bertolini said.

Another meeting will be held July 15 to help the CRA craft a redevelopment plan, which CRA board members will vote on July 21.

The plan will then go before the Planning and Zoning Board in August, before coming before the Cape Coral City Council for a vote in September.

CRA executive director John Jacobsen acknowledged that the new lands will mean more work for the CRA with less money. CRA board members passed a tentative budget of $4.7 million Thursday before the workshop. This year's CRA budget is $5.1 million.

"We have a lot more work to do now," Jacobsen said.

Before the CRA can help remake the golf course, current owners Florida Gulf Ventures must sell the land to the Trust for Public Land, an intermediary buyer for the CRA.

Negotiations are ongoing and appraisals for both sides are still being conducted.

"That's the first key issue when you find out what you first base cost is going to be," Bertolini said.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Meeting THURSDAY, JUNE 25th at 6:30 Please Attend

Please plan to attend this very important event. This is a public workshop to get citizens input on the modification to the redevelopment plan for the CRA expansion areas including the golf course.

Cape Coral Board of Realtors
918 SE 46th Lane
Thursday, June 25th at 6:30

Parking in the rear at Club Square

See you all there.

Thank you for your continued support and commitment to Save The (18 hole) Golf Course!!!!


Monday, June 08, 2009

CRA expands to take over Cape Coral golf club • June 8, 2009

The City Council tonight took a step toward shifting the defunct Golf Club under city control.

The council tonight accepted a study - one of several steps necessary to expand the Community Redevelopment Agency to encompass the 175-acre course in the southeast Cape. With the course in the CRA district, a portion of tax dollars from the surrounding property can be used to purchase and rehabilitate the Golf Club. Property owners won’t pay any additional taxes. Instead as the value of property around the course increases, the extra tax dollars from that increase can be used to pay off the course.

The CRA is still working out a price to purchase the property from its current owners, Florida Gulf Ventures, LLC.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Bertolini files to seek re-election for Cape Coral council seat

By Brian Liberatore • • May 30, 2009

Cape Coral Councilwoman Dolores Bertolini said she needs at least one more term to finish what she started.

The first-term councilwoman took the first step Friday toward her re-election in November, filing with the City Clerk to run for a second four-year term in District 4.

"I have accomplished a lot," Bertolini said. "But there are several things I'd like to see through completion."

Bertolini, 75, has taken the lead on negotiations with developers looking to build a world-class swim facility in north Cape Coral and is pushing to turn over the defunct The Golf Club in the southeast to public hands. She helped write new codes that set higher architectural design standards on new construction and is working on similar codes to govern the city's landscaping.

No one has announced intentions to run against Bertolini. The deadline is July 6.

Scott Hertz, an area builder and active member of the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association, worked with Bertolini on the new design standards.

"She's been very reasonable," Hertz said. "She does what she says. I think that's very important, and I have a lot of respect for that."

Bertolini, a New York City native, has lived in Cape Coral since 1986.

She served on dozens of volunteer boards and organizations in the city before her 2005 run.

With the city facing a $33 million shortfall in next year's operating budget, City Council is facing decisions about cutting services or raising taxes which could affect the November election.

"You have to first determine what's best for the entire city and you have to forget about what's politically expedient," Bertolini said.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cape Coral City Council makes decision on land-use changes

News Press May 21,2009

As expected, the City Council Wednesday shot down a request to change what’s allowed on the 175-acre golf course in the southeast Cape. The former Golf Club has been shuttered for nearly three years, and owners of the course were attempting to change the land use on the property paving the way for mixed-use development.

Officials from Florida Gulf Ventures, LLC, who own the course, deemed the move a backup plan should negotiations fall through to bring the course under city control. The Community Redevelopment Agency – a pseudo governmental organization – is in negotiations with the course’s owners to purchase the course. Both parties are now waiting for an appraiser to set a price.

Council denies land use change for Golf Club

Land owners seek backup plan


The plans of Florida Gulf Ventures, owners of The Golf Club who were taking a mulligan on a land use change proposal, fell into a sand trap Wednesday when the proposal was unanimously denied by the Cape Coral City Council.

Despite ongoing negotiations with the Trust for Public Lands and the Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency to sell the property, Florida Gulf Ventures representatives said they needed to switch the land use designation of the 175-acre parcel in the southeast from parks and recreation to mixed use as a backup plan.

"We are here today because this is our only opportunity this year to ask for a change this year," said Brian Carlson, a representative for Ryan Companies, the parent company of Florida Gulf Ventures.

Economic analysts with Florida Gulf Ventures said the golf course is not profitable, nor could any structure under the current land use designation be profitable.

"There's simply no evidence that the golf course has ever operated as an economically feasible business venture," economist Dr. Hank Fishkind said. "It just wasn't designed to be one that would attract large amounts of play."

The CRA, which is attempting to purchase the golf course using the nonprofit TPL as an intermediary buyer with the intent of preserving it as a course, disputes that conclusion, despite the harsh economic times.

"I would respectfully disagree with Dr. Fishkind's analysis. From the analyses that have been prepared for us, it doesn't work out that way. We see it as a plus," CRA executive director John Jacobsen said.

The golf course has been left unkempt for the past two years after Florida Gulf Ventures shut it down after determining it is not profitable.

Carlson warned the property needs to be developed should negotiations with the TPL and CRA fall through.

"To date the TPL and the CRA have not come to a deal yet. If the CRA is not successful, we've got to do something with this site - we can't let it sit forever," he said.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mixed Use application DENIED

Hello All,

The application for mixed use was unanimously DENIED by our city council and mayor tonight.

Save Our Recreation must now offer our full support to the Trust for Public Lands who are in negotiations with Florida Gulf Ventures to buy the property and the CRA who will eventually bring back an 18 hole golf course with amenities.

The next meeting coming up will be June 8th where the city council will hear the results of the 'finding of necessity'. I'll send an email blast to confirm in a couple weeks.

Thanks to everyone able to make the meeting tonight and for those who were unable, see you next time.



Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Please Attend Special Council Meeting Wednesday, May 20th

I urge you all to attend this meeting to be held at City Hall. Florida Gulf Ventures mixed land use ordinance will be heard before council. To date city staff recommended denial to planning & zoning and planning & zoning voted to recommend denial when it goes before council at this special meeting that hears only large tract changes. Please contact your neighbors and friends. We want a large showing of opposition.

Please remember to be respectful to the council and applicant. Thank you for your continued support and commitment to Save The Golf Course.

Where: City Hall Council Chambers

Date: Wednesday, May 20th (special meeting)

Time: 5:30

Friday, April 24, 2009

Cape Coral golf course rehab pricey

Repairs likely to cost $1 million or more

By Brian Liberatore • • April 24, 2009

The next owner of The Golf Club in Cape Coral can expect to pump about $1 million into the course to make it playable.

Golf course rehabilitation experts say the owner may have to replant the entire 175-acre course - or at least the fairways and greens - which have been left to the weeds for the past 2 1/2 years.

"It's not prohibitively expensive to get the golf course up and running again," said John Jacobsen, director of the Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency, which is looking to purchase and rehabilitate the closed course. "It's still a golf course. It's not as easy mowing and playing it. But it's not as hard as building a new course."

The single largest expense on a golf course, said Lakeland golf designer Ron Garl, is the irrigation system. And The Golf Club's irrigation system was replaced as part of a complete renovation in 2001.

"There were brand new pumps stations and everything was new when we did it," said Brad Moretti, who runs Titan Golf Services in Fort Myers. Moretti oversaw the rehabilitation of the course when he worked with Highland Golf in 2001. "The irrigation system is probably functional."

Without the expense of irrigation lines, which could run about $1 million, the cost of rehabilitating the course lies in replacing the grass.

"Once it's laid fallow (uncultivated) for so many years, it's got so many garbage plants and weeds, you really need to re-grass it," said Moretti.

Garl, who has rehabilitated courses across the country, said a lawnmower might do a lot of the work outside the fairways.

"Mowing is going to kill 70 percent of the weeds," Garl said. "The rest we can kill with herbicides. You're going to get it pretty clean even without the replant (of the grass)."

Planting the fairways, tees and greens, rehabbing the landscaping and other maintenance work could cost up to $1 million, Garl said. Burch said his research showed the rehabilitation costing about $1.2 million.

The rehabilitation of a fallow 18-hole course in Casselberry, near Orlando, cost $1.5 million in 2002. A complete overhaul of the Eastwood Golf Course in Fort Myers in 2008 cost $1.5 million.

Renovations could take about two months, Moretti said, with another three months for the grass to grow.

The golf course - Cape Coral's oldest - hasn't seen playable greens since July 2006. Florida Gulf Ventures LLC closed the course after losing $3 million in five years. Unable to find a buyer, the company tried and failed to change the land use to allow for a mixed-use development. The clubhouse was torn down and the course neglected.

The CRA stepped forward last year with a plan to break the deadlock and bring The Golf Club under municipal control.

"The goal," Burch said, "is to restore a championship golf course that's been a part of our history, that's been a part of our economic engine."

Part of making the course viable includes replacing the clubhouse with a multiple-use facility - one that could accommodate conferences, weddings and large events.

In a down economy, with golf courses struggling around the country, Garl said courses need other amenities to stay viable.

Building the structure, Burch said, is the next step after making the course playable.

The CRA, Jacobsen said, has no desire "to be in the hotel business." The agency would look to a developer to work with the city to build and operate a facility on the course.

"We want to bring in as many private developers as we can. This whole thing is about helping the area grow, helping businesses grow," Jacobsen said.

While hope is building the CRA's plans could come to fruition, there are several steps facing the agency. The City Council must approve the expansion of the CRA district and the course's owners have to agree on a sale price.

The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit dedicated to land preservation, is negotiating on behalf of the CRA. The Trust and investors with Florida Gulf Ventures, LLC have brought in an appraiser to settle on a price.

"To me this is as important as it gets for this city," Burch said. "I believe it can be a very pivotal economic tool for us. I just hope people don't lose sight of this."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

P&Z board denies land use change for The Golf Club

Backup plan sought if CRA sale falls through


A crowd of about 100 people attended the Cape Coral Planning & Zoning Board's meeting Wednesday to show their support for preventing the land use change of The Golf Club to allow for residential and commercial development.

Board members were happy to oblige the attendees, voting unanimously to recommend denial of the change to city council.

Members of Save Our Recreation, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to preserve the land as a golf course, comprised most of the audience and were relieved at the board's decision.

Anne Carney, who has lived near the course for five years, said the area is part of the Cape's history and preserving it as a golf course with a place for social gatherings is essential to retaining a sense of community in the city.

"We used to go to the golf course for our Sunday brunches," said Carney, who visited her parents in Cape Coral in the 1970s and 1980s.

"That's what's important to me - the idea of bringing in a community center, some place to have weddings here so we don't have to cross the bridge," she said.

Florida Gulf Ventures, the owners of the 175-acre site, is in the middle of negotiations with the Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency and Trust for Public Lands, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of open spaces, to sell the property.

William Nolan, a consultant representing Florida Gulf Ventures, said his client's first choice is to sell the property to Trust for Public Lands, but wants to be able to develop the property if the sale is not finalized.

Trust for Public Lands is acting as an intermediary buyer for the CRA and would eventually transfer the property to the city group.

"If this falls through with the CRA, something's got to be done with this property," Nolan said.

Florida Gulf Ventures reached an agreement Monday with Trust for Public Lands to sell the property once it is appraised.

Because land use changes need to be sanctioned by the Florida Department of Community Affairs, and because there are only two opportunities to get a department review each year, Florida Gulf Ventures brought the proposed change before the planning and zoning board.

"You can only do this once a year. We waited for 2 1/2 years to get here," Nolan said.

But board members voted against the land use change, saying it does not comply with the city's future land use plan.

Some members also questioned Florida Gulf Venture's contention that the course could be run for a profit, as the CRA intends to do.

"I really disagree it cannot make a profit," said board member Patti Martin. "I do think it's our duty not to look just at today's economic situation, we're supposed to be looking ahead."

Florida Gulf Ventures shut the course down more than two years ago and has been pushing to develop the area since, postponing its original hearing before the planning and zoning board in July.

"It just does not work financially," Nolan said of the golf course.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Keep Golf Club as a golf course, Cape Coral planning board says • April 22, 2009

The former Golf Club of Cape Coral won’t be turned into commercial property and condos — at least if the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission gets its way.

The commission members today voted unanimously to recommend the city deny a request to turn the property into a mixed-use development.

The vote marks another step toward turning the Golf Course, which has been closed for two-and-a-half years, into city property.

The CRA is working to expand its boundaries to encompass the course. The club’s owners appeared amenable to handing over the course to the city agency.

An assessor is now working out a sale price for the property.

“We’re here (at the Planning and Zoning meeting) because this is when the schedule puts us here,” said attorney Michael Cicerone, representing Florida Gulf Ventures, LLC, which owns the course. “We don’t have any alternative other than being here. We really do hope the city buys it we’ll do everything we can to sell it.”

Plan to revitalize former The Golf Club takes shape

Study calls it blighted


The Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency took another step Tuesday toward reviving the defunct The Golf Club by sanctioning the results of a study that found the area is blighted and could be taken into the CRA's boundaries.

The study is part of a plan for the CRA to buy the 175-acre golf course in the southeast Cape through an intermediary buyer, the nonprofit Trust for Public Lands, and return it to its former glory as a functioning golf club.

The current owners, Florida Gulf Ventures, signed a purchase agreement Monday with Trust for Public Lands to have the property appraised and secure a price.

Florida Gulf Ventures shut down the course more than two years ago because it was not economically viable, wanting to construct a mixed-use development instead. The proposal was decried by residents surrounding the course, who said the area is part of the Cape's history.

The development never got off the ground, and now the once-proud course is full of overgrown weeds, causing property values in the area to fall even more precipitously than the housing crisis would suggest.

Mary Neilson, who led the fight against the development of the course for two years as president of the nonprofit organization Save Our Recreation, is pleased with the CRA plan's progress.

"I think they're just moving at light-speed," she said.

Because the CRA's main funding source - tax increment funds - come from increases in property values and the taxes gleaned from those that would otherwise go to Cape Coral and Lee County, the plan to expand the CRA's borders, and the study justifying it, must by OK'd by the city and county.

Thomas Kohler, senior vice president of Real Estate Research Consultants, the firm that conducted the study, said all parties involved could reach an agreement as early as October, but CRA officials are keen to complete the deal sooner rather than later.

"The important thing is to move forward with (the study) as quickly as possible," CRA executive director John Jacobsen said.

Mayor Jim Burch touted the golf course's revitalization as crucial for a city trying to pick itself up after being knocked down by a severe recession.

"This could be the single most important thing the city has done in 30 years," he said.

"It's almost a signification of the rebirth of our city, and we could use a rebirth right now. For something like this to happen in an economy like this would be remarkable," Burch said.

Cape Coral CRA happy to have more blight

The Golf Club gets designation; CRA glad

By BRIAN LIBERATORE • • April 22, 2009

The former Golf Club of Cape Coral - after 2 1/2 years of neglect - is officially blighted.

That's bad news for The Golf Club but good news for the city's Community Redevelopment Agency. The CRA needed an official blight designation to expand its boundaries around the course, buy and rehabilitate it.

Tuesday it got that designation.

Thomas R. Kohler with Real Estate Research Consultants announced his company's findings at Tuesday's CRA meeting, sparking hopes the plan could move ahead.

"We met the blight condition," Kohler said. "We have met the intent of the letter of the law and the intent of the law."

If the plan continues on track, the course could open by the end of next year or "maybe a whole lot sooner," said CRA Executive Director John Jacobsen.

In order for the purchase to go through, the City Council will need to approve the expansion and the course's owners will need to settle on a sale price within the CRA's budget.

"This is awesome," said Mary Neilson, founder of Save The Golf Course. "(Tuesday) I realized that this can happen."

The Trust for Public Land, a national land preservation nonprofit, is negotiating a price with Florida Gulf Ventures, LLC, which owns the course. The Trust plans to transfer ownership of the course to the CRA. The Trust signed a purchase agreement Monday and has hired an assessor to work out a price.

"For something like this to happen in an economy like this would be remarkable," said Mayor Jim Burch.

"This partnership has been just outrageously good. This could be the single most important thing the city has done in 30 years - to bring back the center of this city, and to bring it back in this economic time. It's a (sign) of a rebirth of this city."

The course's owners expect to bring a proposal to the city's Planning and Zoning Commission today to change its land use to permit a mixed-use development - a move commission members, the city' planning staff and City Council members have opposed.

Representatives with Gulf Ventures deemed the proposal a contingency plan should negotiations with the trust fall through. But trust officials were confident the sale would go through.

"Boy I'm looking forward to going out there and playing," Burch said. "But I'm looking forward more to the aftermath of that - to seeing the economic benefit."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Golf club sales contract signed

Nonprofit wants to buy course for taxpayers

By Brian Liberatore • • April 21, 2009

A nonprofit organization Monday signed a contract to purchase the former The Golf Club in southeast Cape Coral — a major step toward turning the 175-acre course over to Cape Coral’s Community Redevelopment Agency.

The Trust for Public Land and investors with Florida Gulf Ventures LLC need to bring in an appraiser to solidify a purchase price, and the CRA needs to expand its boundaries before the course can belong to the taxpayers.

But advocates for rejuvenating the course are buoyed by the contract.

“I’m very optimistic that they’ll make this happen,” said Mary Neilson, who lives near the course. Neilson two years ago formed a nonprofit to fight redevelopment of the course as a mixed-use condo community. “I’m pleased by the progress.”

The course has been closed for 21⁄2 years, allowing weeds and crabgrass to overtake the greens and dashing hopes that the city’s oldest course and a social scene centerpiece would see another round.

After the owners’ earlier attempts to change the allowed land use failed, Florida Gulf Ventures appeared stuck with property it couldn’t sell.

CRA director John Jacobsen floated a solution, suggesting the CRA district expand its borders to include the golf course. Taxes from increased property values around the course would be used to pay for the property.

The CRA expects to hear today from a consultant on the plausibility of expanding the boundaries — something the city and Lee County officials would also have to sign off on.

“It’s not the quickest process in the world, but it’s the right process,” Jacobsen said.

“Everybody gets ample time to learn about it and show up and talk about it.”

Jacobsen brought in the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit dedicated to preserving green spaces, to negotiate a purchase. The trust would buy the land and sell it back to the CRA. CRA board members are waiting to hear about the course’s cost before moving ahead.

The property is assessed by Lee County’s property appraiser for $2.5 million.

The course’s owners on Wednesday expect to bring a proposal to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission to change its land use to permit a mixed-use development. Previous proposals hit stiff resistance from property owners, city council members and city planners.

Representatives with Gulf Ventures deemed Wednesday’s proposal a contingency plan should the negotiations with the trust fall through.

Greg Chelius, director of the Trust for Public Land in the Caribbean and Florida, was confident the groups could find a deal.

“We don’t like to do this unless there’s a real good chance of it working,” said Chelius. “It sounds to me like the community would really like to see this take place. We love that.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

URGENT! Plan to attend Planning & Zoning Meeting 4/22/2009

Florida Gulf Ventures application to change the Golf Club land to Mixed Use is being heard at the April 22nd P & Z meeting. The negotiations with the Trust For Public Lands and the Florida Gulf Ventures are moving forward yet FGV is still pressing to have the Land Use changed.

Please plan to attend. Be sure to alert your neighbors and friends. Call 3 people and tell them to contact 3 people as well. We want the city to know we continue to oppose this application.

Where: Cape Coral City Hall council chambers
Date: Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Time: 9 a.m. (Golf Club App is 1st up on the agenda, don't be late)

See you there. Thank you


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Rezoning requested for golf land

By Brian Liberatore News Press

Development Plan before committee

The owners of the former The Golf Club in Cape Coral may try again to turn the course into a development of homes. But success seems unlikely.

Florida Gulf Ventures LLC, which owns the now defunct 175-acre course, has submitted an application to the city to change what can be built on the land. The proposal goes to the Planning and Zoning Commission on April 22.

The application comes despite ongoing negotiations to sell the property to the city's Community Redevelopment Agency, which wants to resuscitate the property as a park or a golf course.

"They (Florida Gulf Ventures) need to get serious," said councilwoman Dolores Bertolini, who represents the area around the course. "Which side do they want to get on? Do they want to be on both sides or are they serious with negotiations."

Four months ago, the CRA brought in the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit dedicated to preserving green spaces. The plan is for the Trust to settle on a price and buy the golf course, which has been closed for two-and-a-half years, from Gulf Ventures. The agency would then sell the property to the CRA.

Doug Hattaway, a senior project manager for the Trust for Public Land, said the application would not hurt talks on the sale.

"I don't think it has a negative affect on the negotiations," Hattaway said. "I'm optimistic that we will have a contract (to purchase the property) in the near future."

Hattaway conceded it made sense for Gulf Ventures to look at a back up plan for the property in case the deal with the CRA fell through.

The property owners have a limited window to apply for a large-scale land use change.

"It (the application) doesn't mean they're any less sincere," said CRA executive director, John Jacobsen. "If they don't make this application, they'd have to wait another year.If out negotiations fail for any reason - not that I expect them to fail - that would put them back a year."

In its current state, the property is assessed at $2.5 million. The trust plans soon to bring in an assessor to get a better handle on the property's value.

Regardless of the negotiations with the Trust, the land use change will face some stiff opposition from the city. The application calls for up to 1,400 residential units, office and retail space and "significant public park and lake areas."

Nearby residents have organized in opposition to past attempts to change the land. City Council members have come out against the project. And the city's planning staff has said the proposal doesn't make sense in its location.

The project, the city's planners say, would represent a 9,000 percent increase in traffic around Palm Tree Boulevard and Country Club Boulevard.

"Given the size of the subject property, the proposed amendment would place tremendous burden on the surrounding neighborhood," city planner Wyatt Daltry wrote in response to the application. "A proposal with lesser scope ... may be appropriate, however."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

UPDATE + News Press article

Below, please find the portion of Brian's News Press article on last nights council meeting that pertains to the CRA/Golf Course. I would like to thank the Mayor and Council Members for voting unanimously to lend the CRA the funds for the study. This could have been a major stumbling block had the request been denied. Once the finding of necessity is complete and we are brought in to the CRA the money will be paid back to the city from CRA funds.

Negotiations are moving along nicely. I'll keep you updated.

Thank you, Mary

By Brian Liberatore • • February 10, 2009

Golf Course

The city council agreed to spend $27,000 on a study that is the first step toward expanding the Community Redevelopment Agency District to encompass the former Golf Club of Cape Coral. The move would allow the CRA to buy and redevelop the course.

If the study doesn't justify expansion, the city could be out the $27,000, but CRA Executive Director John Jacobsen said it's worth it.

"This is our only chance," Jacobsen said. "This is our best chance. And I think it's a very, very good chance."

Friday, February 06, 2009

Plan to incorporate golf course into CRA district nears fruition


Plans to bring The Golf Club golf course into the Cape Coral Redevelopment Agency are inching closer to becoming reality, as officials with the course's current owner, Florida Gulf Ventures, and the Trust for Public Lands, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of open spaces, are nearing an agreement to purchase the course.

"The Trust for Public Lands and Florida Gulf Ventures, they've agreed to everything in principle," said John Jacobsen, executive director of the CRA.

According to Jacobsen, the two parties will agree on an appraiser and the parameters of the appraisal of the property.

As the golf course's purchase is being negotiated, the CRA is looking to annex the surrounding land so it may buy the land from TPL.

The CRA must get the approval of the Cape Coral City Council and the Lee County Commission to annex the 180-acre course and surrounding homes into its boundaries.

City council members are scheduled to discuss the issue Monday. They could decide to move forward with a study to determine if the area is blighted and can be incorporated into the CRA.

According to city documents, the study is projected to cost $26,500 and should be completed by March 31.

Monday, January 26, 2009


Hello Everyone,

I understand from numerous conversations that the negotiations between the Trust for Public Lands and the owners of the golf course are moving along in a very positive way, and that they are finalizing a memorandum of understanding and working on the instructions for and selection of an appraiser for the golf course property. CRA representatives have attended a number of these meetings, and they are pleased with the progress, and the CRA and the Trust for Public Lands have been refining the terms of their arrangement.

Simply, if things go forward with the acquisition of the golf course: The Trust for Public Lands will purchase the golf course and in turn at closing enter into a lease/purchase agreement with the CRA. The CRA will lease the property while preparing a bond issue to raise the funds to acquire the property from the Trust for Public Lands at the price that the Trust paid for the property. The CRA will pay the yearly debt service for the bonds from the tax increment coming from the expanded area surrounding the golf course.

As Councilwoman Dolores Bertolini stated at the golf course Town Hall meeting, the CRA pursuant to statutory requirements will be undertaking a “Finding of Necessity” of the area surrounding and including the golf course to identify conditions of blight that need to be addressed, and that Finding of necessity will then be the basis of a CRA Boundary expansion to include the area surrounding and the golf course. Inclusion within the CRA means that future normally increasing property taxes (no additional taxes are assessed for being within the CRA) will go to the CRA to pay debt service on the bonds issued to purchase the golf course from the Trust for Public Lands. This increment, the Tax Increment, is the way the golf course acquisition will be financed.

At this time, as stated, the owners and the Trust for Public Lands are in final negotiation on the instructions for the appraisal, and the Trust for Public Lands is meeting with the CRA to finalize the terms of the lease/purchase agreement. In addition, the CRA Board has authorized the Executive Director to enter into a contract to undertake the Finding of Necessity Study, and such Study should be underway in February.

The process of expanding the boundaries of the CRA is a very public process and meetings of the community, Planning & Zoning Board, CRA Board and City Council must be held before everything goes forward.

The CRA has this as a priority item, and the City staff will fast track this effort as much as possible. All parties agree that the transfer of title to the Trust for Public Lands and the lease/purchase agreement with the CRA can realistically occur in calendar year 2009. Additional details and a projected timeline of actions should be available from the CRA late in February.

I will continue to monitor the progress and update everyone periodically.

The Save Our Recreation fund raiser held at the Lutheran Church in March, 2007 was a great success and I thank you again for your generous support. In the last 2 years the monies have been well spent on consultants and accounting, however funds are running low. I ask that anyone able to send a contribution, however small, please do so. Our fight will continue until our mission is accomplished.

Please share this message with friends and neighbors without access to email.

Please make your check payable to; Save Our Recreation

Mail to: Save Our Recreation
C/O Mary Neilson
3862 SE 7th PL
Cape Coral, FL 33904

As Always, Thank you for your continued support and commitment to Save The Golf Course. By standing together as one we will make a difference in our community.