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City Council vote nearly triples size of CRA

By Staff | Jun 9, 2009

A unanimous vote Monday by the Cape Coral City Council nearly tripled the size of the Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency, adding about 1,100 acres to its existing boundaries, which encompass 440 acres.
The area incorporated into the CRA is a largely residential area that surrounds The Golf Club, a 175-acre course, formerly the Cape Coral Country Club, that was shut down and abandoned two years ago.
The CRA is seeking to purchase the land from the current owners, Florida Gulf Ventures, through a non-profit organization, Trust for Public Lands, to resurrect it as a viable golf course.
A study commissioned by the City Council found the new CRA land to be a blighted area, a prerequisite for being incorporated to the CRA. Additional improvement plans will be added to the CRA’s plan to reinvigorate the golf course, adding amenities besides just the course, CRA officials said.
“We expect to be able to include a club along with a small hotel,” CRA consultant Frank Schnidman said.
Although passed unanimously, the move to enlarge the CRA was not passed without question from the council.
Councilmember Bill Deile expressed concern the land added to the CRA was too large and would take its focus off of redeveloping its largely commercial area.
“I do have some issues with it, mainly the vast size of the land area. This looks like it triples the area of the CRA,” Deile said. “My issue is when you take this much residential into the CRA it’s going to dilute its mission (of commercial redevelopment),” he added.
Deile also bemoaned the lack of a concrete plan to go along with the CRA’s land grab, but Schnidman explained state statutes preclude the CRA from spending money for development plans outside of its boundaries.
“We cannot do a business plan because it is not now within the CRA,” Schnidman said.
The inclusion of properties not connected to the golf course also troubled Deile, but backers of the project said most homeowners in the area support the proposal.
Mary Neilson, president of Save Our Recreation, a non-profit organization made up of homeowners in the newly incorporated area dedicated to salvaging the golf course, said the neighborhood welcomes the CRA’s plan to restore the course.
“We have a lot of people that come from outside (the golf course area),” Neilson said.