Monday, May 16, 2016

Letter to mayor and council

May 9, 2016

Dear Mayor Sawicki, Council Members and City Manager Szerlag,

My name is Barth Wolf and I reside at 4007 Palm Tree Blvd, Unit 108, Cape Coral, FL 33904.  I am writing to you with respect to the old golf course property.  I am a retired attorney and President of Save Our Recreation, Inc. an organization organized to protect and preserve environmental and recreation property in Cape Coral, and in particular the old golf course property.  I am not writing this on behalf of Save Our Recreation, Inc., but instead as a concerned neighbor and citizen.  I am aware of the proposed D.R. Horton offer to purchase and their current efforts which included meeting several of us concerned neighbors.  I have also followed closely the 5 year Park and Recreation Plan process.  I understand that the golf course was discussed at the May 4 meeting where the Barth Associates Master Parks Plan study was reviewed and at which it was suggested that the golf course be discussed at the May 11 meeting during the discussion of Capital Assert Management Plan.

I want to urge the Council to maintain the current Parks and Recreation land use designation for the golf course and also to look at options to purchase the course and bring it into the Master Parks Plan process.  Although I would personally like to see the property restored as a golf course, I am more concerned that we not lose this last, large, historic piece of green space in the Southeast Cape lost for generations to come.  I had a city manager friend tell me once that no one has ever been criticized in the future for preserving green space in a manner that benefits the community as whole for generations to come.  At the time some may say it is folly to purchase land for park and recreation purposes, but generations later that person is often lauded as a visionary and people erect statutes and plaques honoring them.  You have that opportunity with the property. Once developed into small lot homes and condos, that opportunity is lost forever.  It also can potentially be part of or complement any future development of the Bimini Basin.

I want to make several specific points.

First, the Barth Associates study clearly shows that Cape Coral is lagging in park and recreation space as compared to its own standards and even more so when compared to national averages.  We bill ourselves as a top destination for people to relocate to.  Maintaining and enhancing our park and recreation options is critical to maintain this status.  The fastest growing demographic in the study was shown to be the 55-65 age group.  Many of these are active retirees (or soon to be retirees) who are looking for ways to stay active.  I am one of these people.  This property, whether golf course, multi-use recreation park or nature area fits this need and is really the last such option in the Southeast Cape.

Second, our city planners when first developing the comprehensive plan designated this land as green space with Park and Recreation use (a golf course at that time).  This has stayed this way in the plan until today.  In fact, the city even litigated the issue and was found to have the authority to maintain the current land use designation.

Third, the city added this property into the CRA back in 2009. The CRA Plan stated about this particular parcel that “The key objective for this area is the acquisition of the golf course, its redevelopment back to a viable course, the opportunity to include certain complimentary commercial and recreational uses, the use of the open space to support storm water system and/or other environmental projects, as well as programs that support the residential sustainability of the surrounding neighborhoods.”  The council when updating the CRA Plan in 2014 kept this same language without change.  Allowing this property to be developed with high density residential properties is completely inconsistent with the CRA Plan and would not utilize the TIF funds generated to meet the CRA Plan.

Fourth, purchasers of property around the golf course and in Area 12 of the CRA (which includes the golf course) have had numerous things they’ve relied on in the public record that have influenced their investment expectations that they bought and/or retained ownership of property on or near a golf course.  These include 1) the first sales of property in Cape Coral when the golf course was a major selling feature of the community 2) the Comprehensive Plan, 3) the CRA Plan, 4) the successful litigation upholding the right to retain the Parks and Recreation land use designation.  Property owners have relied on these and will likely suffer economic harm if high density residential development occurs.

Last, this is a chance to save a historic and unique piece of property in the Southeast Cape that can be a focal point for generations to come.  Our kids and their kids should have the ability to enjoy this property for years to come.  Doing the right things with this property can continue to make Cape Coral a great place to live.  Whether it is a golf course, stand-alone multiuse park, nature park or other destination green space let’s do the right thing with this property.

Barth Wolf