Sunday, March 09, 2014

City to explore golf course options

By Cristela Guerra    The News Press

Residents advocate preserving the 175-acre site in south Cape Coral as green space.

 Councilman Jim Burch pleaded with council Monday night to consider a way to save the historic 175-acre old golf course in the south Cape. Many want to see this green space become the “Central Park of Cape Coral.”

He said, depending on what the city decides to do, it could be “the most damaging decisions it may ever make in respect to the future of the city.”

“It’s not just a golf course,” Burch said. “It’s so far beyond that.”

Some residents advocated for the golf course in public comment. Others held fliers that read, “Protect Cape Coral’s jewel for future generations.” Councilman John Carioscia agreed that all options should be on the table though not all seem financially feasible.

In a unanimous vote, council gave City Manager John Szerlag direction to explore all options, specifically reaching out to the Council for Progress as well as the Trust for Public Land. Councilman Richard Leon noted several times that the money is just not there. He also
made another request that received applause from the audience.

“Please just cut the grass,” Leon asked of one of the property owners present in council chambers.

Helen Dorothy, 73, has lived near the property since 2003.

“I think they should buy the golf course,” Dorothy said. “We don’t have a lot of green space.”

Burch advocated especially for delving into the Trust for Public Lands though Finance Director Victoria Bateman said that option could require a major investment between $2 million and $4 million. A main complaint is while the land remains in limbo it continues blighted, overgrown and unused.

“I hear the passion and love for this,” said Mayor Marni Sawicki. “I just can’t see how we do this with the budget that we have.”

During past meetings, a multitude of suggestions have been considered including developing the land, converting it back into a pristine golf course or a public-private partnership with the owners.

Also on last night’s agenda, an issue of contention was momentarily resolved. Cape Coral
City Council voted unanimously to begin billing on the fire services assessment and put the money collected in escrow.   Other council items Continued....