Thursday, April 23, 2009

P&Z board denies land use change for The Golf Club

Backup plan sought if CRA sale falls through


A crowd of about 100 people attended the Cape Coral Planning & Zoning Board's meeting Wednesday to show their support for preventing the land use change of The Golf Club to allow for residential and commercial development.

Board members were happy to oblige the attendees, voting unanimously to recommend denial of the change to city council.

Members of Save Our Recreation, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to preserve the land as a golf course, comprised most of the audience and were relieved at the board's decision.

Anne Carney, who has lived near the course for five years, said the area is part of the Cape's history and preserving it as a golf course with a place for social gatherings is essential to retaining a sense of community in the city.

"We used to go to the golf course for our Sunday brunches," said Carney, who visited her parents in Cape Coral in the 1970s and 1980s.

"That's what's important to me - the idea of bringing in a community center, some place to have weddings here so we don't have to cross the bridge," she said.

Florida Gulf Ventures, the owners of the 175-acre site, is in the middle of negotiations with the Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency and Trust for Public Lands, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of open spaces, to sell the property.

William Nolan, a consultant representing Florida Gulf Ventures, said his client's first choice is to sell the property to Trust for Public Lands, but wants to be able to develop the property if the sale is not finalized.

Trust for Public Lands is acting as an intermediary buyer for the CRA and would eventually transfer the property to the city group.

"If this falls through with the CRA, something's got to be done with this property," Nolan said.

Florida Gulf Ventures reached an agreement Monday with Trust for Public Lands to sell the property once it is appraised.

Because land use changes need to be sanctioned by the Florida Department of Community Affairs, and because there are only two opportunities to get a department review each year, Florida Gulf Ventures brought the proposed change before the planning and zoning board.

"You can only do this once a year. We waited for 2 1/2 years to get here," Nolan said.

But board members voted against the land use change, saying it does not comply with the city's future land use plan.

Some members also questioned Florida Gulf Venture's contention that the course could be run for a profit, as the CRA intends to do.

"I really disagree it cannot make a profit," said board member Patti Martin. "I do think it's our duty not to look just at today's economic situation, we're supposed to be looking ahead."

Florida Gulf Ventures shut the course down more than two years ago and has been pushing to develop the area since, postponing its original hearing before the planning and zoning board in July.

"It just does not work financially," Nolan said of the golf course.