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."