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."