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Old golf course: Development plans still a work in progress

By Staff | Sep 9, 2016

Plans for a residential community on acreage in southeast Cape Coral that once was a golf course have been modified to include fewer homes and more green space.

Development plans by D.R. Horton have been scaled back to about 500 single family homes, down from the 600 originally tendered.

The proposal now calls for 49 percent of the 175 acres to be preserved as open and green space with 62 acres for building lots, said D.R. Horton spokesperson Connie Ramos-Williams of CONRIC P.R. & Marketing.

Horton, one of the largest homebuilders in the country, is considering a beautiful privacy buffer instead of a wall or gate, she said.

As far as amenities, it depends on what the city will allow if the land use change to make the project possible passes through City Council.

Progressing at a slower pace than first intended, D.R. Horton is expecting to file for a land use change for the abandoned golf course property with the City of Cape Coral by the end of the year.

“They wanted more time to meet with the folks there and get more feedback,” Ramos-Williams said. “They’re meeting with the residents at Banyan Trace and the Save Our Recreation group and residents who have lived there a long time. Horton had hoped to file before now and have no exact date in mind, but they are looking at the end of this year.”

A group called Save Our Recreation recently obtained 501 (c) (3) status from the U.S. Government to raise funds for their cause opposing the project and provide a tax break for donors.

“We don’t want to lose this property as part of the city’s parks plan,” SOR president Barth Wolf has said. “People just don’t want to lose the green space. Our ultimate goal is to get the city to purchase the property and turn it into a golf course or multi-use facility for everyone. That’s a great long term solution. It’s an historic piece of Cape Coral.”

The group also asks residents to speak with or write emails to council members and the mayor respectfully urging their support.

The golf property, located on Palm Tree Boulevard, is currently zoned for single family residence with the future land use designation of parks/golf course. The land use is the obstacle blocking development.

Horton’s purchase contract with Ryan Companies U.S. contains an “out” clause if the city rejects Horton’s permit and change requests.

“A park or golf course is not realistic right now,” said Ramos-Williams. “That’s a lot of property for the city to maintain, a lot of money for upkeep. Golf courses are closing down all over.”

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

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

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., which eventually 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.

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.