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.