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National builder interested: Old golf course site has purchase offer pending

By Staff | Mar 18, 2016

D.R. Horton, one of the largest homebuilders in the country, is interested in purchasing the 175-acre old golf course property from Ryan Companies U.S. and desires to develop it for single- family homes.

“D.R. Horton has executed an agreement to purchase the 175-acre site at 4003 Palm Tree Boulevard in Cape Coral, formerly home of The Golf Club,” D.R. Horton said Thursday in an email response to a Breeze query. “The company is currently working on plans for the proposed single-family home community, which may include a public use area. D.R. Horton plans to meet with individual residents, officials and community organizations as the project progresses.”

City spokesperson Connie Barron confirmed several D.R. Horton and Ryan representatives met with City Manager John Szerlag last Friday and identified themselves as the contract purchaser of The Golf Club property.

Szerlag and City Attorney Dolores Menendez were introduced by Ryan Companies U.S. executive VP William McHale to Jonathan Pentecost and Oliver Bacovsky of D.R. Horton.

A memo Szerlag sent to City Council members about the meeting indicated that “while there is no specific site plan, (Pentecost’s) general intent is to request a single family residential development.”

However, D.R. Horton has not filed any applications for development with the city.

Barron added, “The property currently is zoned residential and its future land use designation is parks.”

Councilmember Richard Leon, who represents the district in which The Golf Club lies, said, “Council will take a wait-and-see stance to see if they follow through and buy the property. Over the last two years numerous times there have been 30-day contracts for purchase that never panned out. We informed D.R. Horton of the previous court case when commercial and residential development was denied.”

The Golf Club of Cape Coral has been closed for 10 years, but the vacant property continues to raise emotions among Cape Coral residents in general and, more strongly, for the hundreds of residents who live around the former golf course.

“If that is true, it’s disappointing to hear,” said Mary Nielsen, a resident neighbor of the property and publisher of an online watchdog blog www.savethegolfclub.com. “I just hope the city leaders recognize the importance of the course being the last green space in southeast Cape and help preserve it for future generations.”

Others took a similar view.

“The vast majority of the residents around the course want it preserved as a golf course or green space,” said Barth Wolf, who owns property adjoining the course. “It would be nice to see it stay a golf course. There is plenty of space to build single family homes elsewhere in Cape Coral.”

While the homeowners abutting the course want to see it stay a course, they have complained about the lack of maintenance and wild overgrowth of vegetation on the property which has attracted a variety of wildlife.

“I’d rather it stay vacant in its current condition than to see homes put in there,” said Wolf. “A lot of people bought homes there because of the golf course.”

“Clearly the position of the people and council is to keep it open space, and council’s position has not changed,” said Leon. “We will have to see what the private sector and the market will do. My position is to work with the private sector on future proposals.”

Gulf American Corp. built the original Cape Coral Country Club for city residents to enjoy and to encourage more home sales. New owners renamed it The Golf Club, but when golf revenue declined it was sold in 2006 to Florida Gulf Ventures Inc., a division of Ryan Companies U.S. Florida Gulf Ventures closed it, saying it could not make money on golf and pursued alternative development.

Cape Coral denied Florida Gulf Ventures’ land use change request in 2009 for a mixed use development to include commercial and residential units. A subsequent lawsuit against the city resulted in a judge upholding the city’s denial.

“It has been open space since forever,” said Leon, “and residents want to keep it open space.”

At one point, the Lee County School District wanted to purchase the property for the purpose of building several schools. Under public pressure, the school district dropped its proposal.

Cape Coral’s Comprehensive Plan states that there should be an 18-hole golf course for every 100,000 residents. The city is approaching 170,000 population, but more during season.

“The Comprehensive Plan is out of date,” said Leon. “It will be addressed in the future, perhaps 2017 or 2018. Right now the city is updating the Future Land Use maps and writing a new Master Parks Plan. When we are done with that we will review the Comprehensive Plan.”

Leon explained that the city has enough golf courses. Coral Oaks Golf Course, Palmetto Pine Country Club and Royal Tee Golf Course count toward the Comprehensive Plan, as do Hunter’s Run and another course in North Fort Myers just outside the city limits.

“The Comprehensive Plan is insane to require that many golf courses for a city this size,” said Leon.