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Youth Council rejects golf course land use change

By Staff | Jul 18, 2017

The Cape Coral Youth Council’s stance against residential development on the vacant Golf Club property doesn’t carry as much weight at the Planning & Zoning Commission, but it does send a clear message to the public and applicant D.R. Horton that open space in the city is a prime consideration.

The Youth Council voted unanimously last Friday to send its first official recommendation to City Council opposing the proposed land use change request that has a public hearing scheduled on Aug. 21.

“This is the last chance to keep this land open,” said Youth Council chair Maxwell Slafer, a Cape High student. “How will the city acquire the land, I don’t know. How will the city develop the park, I don’t know. We represent the youth of this city and know we need to expand our park areas. It needs to be maintained as recreation. We need to be on the side of the public, not bending to private groups.”

Eight members of the Youth Council heard presentations from both sides of the issue and questioned the representatives before expressing their own opinions.

D.R. Horton, represented by entitlement manager J. Wayne Everett, presented the benefits of its single-family residential development plan first, followed by resident Carolyn Conant, also a Cape Coral Bike/Ped member.

Council vice-chair Austin Wilson, Slafer and member Carsyn Baxter were the most engaged in the questioning. Baxter, a Cape High student, is concerned that residents around the gated community come to feel isolated in their neighborhood and what it does to property values. Wilson, a North Fort Myers High student, wondered if the land use was to be changed, would D.R. Horton’s plans change like a bait-and-switch scenario.

Slafer’s position was that the owner bought the property knowing it was a golf course.

The panel’s 8-0 vote is more emphatic than the 5-2 vote the Planning & Zoning Commission made June 7 in denying the land use application. It is the Youth Council’s first decision regarding long-term substance for the city. It’s recommendation will be presented before the regular City Council meeting Aug. 21.

Council chamber seats were decked out in the familiar green shirts of the Save Our Recreation group formed to lobby elected officials to preserve the 175-acre property, vacant for the past 11 years, as a golf course, green space and/or park land.

“This is a case of private interests vs. public interests,” said Slafer. “Our elected officials need to hear the voice of their constituents. This course is part of our history and very important to the city.”

Conant added, “This is a pre-platted community. We can’t afford to lose a large piece of property like this. We are a very young city and we should start paying attention to our cultural development and large parks. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. The southeast and southwest areas are our economic engines. The property is more valuable to the city as a park.”

Everett stated that the development, if it becomes a reality, would be done in three phases with the first one being the largest and taking the longest because of the infrastructure construction. The property is above the flood plain and does not need an invasion of dump trucks hauling in dirt.

Wilson made the official motion to recommend denial of the application before members stated their positions.

The Youth Council meets again at 2:45 p.m. on July 28 at City Hall.