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CRA to present city council with plan for golf course

By Staff | Nov 19, 2008

A day after receiving strong support from residents for a proposal to purchase the former The Golf Club in Cape Coral, Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency board members directed their staff to take the proposal to the city for the approval of council members.

More than 250 people packed the council chambers Tuesday to hear CRA representatives explain the plan that includes bringing much of the area surrounding the golf course into the CRA boundaries. The vast majority of the audience supported the idea, and CRA board members decided to take the next step Wednesday during their meeting.

“It’s important that we know what the people want and that was (Tuesday) night’s mission,” said CRA Executive Director John Jacobsen.

The course has been shut down for the past two years by the owner, Florida Gulf Ventures, because it is not economically viable.

Mary Neilson, president of Save Our Recreation, a group of residents dedicated to preserving the course, said she supports the CRA’s plan.

“I like the plan, but I’ll be following the process closely,” she said.

In order for the CRA to purchase the course, however, the surrounding area would have to be incorporated into the CRA and the golf course would have to be declared a “blighted” area to allow for the annexation.

Some CRA board members want to be sure residents will not be discouraged by the designation.

“The word blight scares people even though we know it doesn’t change anything,” said CRA Boardmember Lou Simmons.

“It’s simply part of the process to get them what they want and that’s a golf course,” CRA Boardmember Don Heisler added.

Jacobsen said property values are likely to increase if the area is incorporated into the CRA, even though the golf course would be declared a “blight” on the area.

“It doesn’t mean your property values go down. I’ll bet you property values go up rather quickly,” Jacobsen said.

The CRA’s budget is relatively small — $5 million this year — so it will rely on state grants to help finance the purchase of the golf course. The extra funds brought in by incorporating the new area into its boundaries would also go toward the purchase. Since it would be some time before those funds would be available, the CRA is lining up an intermediary buyer.

The Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of open spaces, would buy the 177-acre course and sell it to the CRA.

Jacobsen said lining up municipal support is an important first step.

“We need to get total buy in from (city staff) because that needs to come before the council as soon as possible,” Jacobsen said.

Neilson just wants to see the course up and running again.

“We want a golf course, period. We’ll support it,” she said.