Wednesday, April 22, 2009

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."