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.

Cape golf course negotiations back on the table • August 25, 2009

Don’t reserve your tee time yet. But city officials say there is again hope the defunct Golf Club of Cape Coral could reopen.

The course’s owners Tuesday morning met with officials from the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency with the hope that they could hash out a deal to put the course in public hands. The meeting comes a month after representatives with Florida Gulf Venture, the course’s owner, walked away from the negotiating table.

Kent Carlson and Mark Anderson, partners with the investment group, met CRA executive director John Jacobsen and consultant Frank Schnidman Tuesday at the CRA’s downtown office.

“They looked at us and said we’re here to let you know we want to make this deal work,” Schnidman said. “In all of real estate negotiations it’s a matter of posturing. They let us know they wanted to make this happen. We let them know we’re going to this in a transparent, honest way.”

The course’s owners shuttered the course in 2006 claiming it was no longer profitable. Attempts to sell the course, however, fell through. The course has since sat vacant succumbing to weeds and neglect. The clubhouse is no longer standing.

Jacobsen last year proposed expanding the CRA to encompass the course 175-acre course, breaking the stalemate.

The CRA brought in the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit land conservation group, to handle the negotiations and act as an interim buyer. In July, the owners cut off negotiations with the trust after the two couldn’t agree on a price. Neither side disclosed the asking price. Carlson did say in a letter, however, that the owners were asking for 35 to 50 percent more than the trust was offering.

For the latest round of negotiations with the CRA, both groups will hire an appraiser. With the numbers on the table, the groups can then begin serious negotiations on a price. The property this year is assessed at about $2.8 million for tax purposes.

“I still feel that there’s a future for the golf course,” said councilwoman Dolores Bertolini. “ And I think that when all avenues have been explored by the owner, it will return to what it once was.”