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.