City puts out land swap feeler for old golf course site
The city of Cape Coral’s administrative staff has broached the possibility of a land swap with the owner of the old golf course site.
City Manager John Szerlag advised Cape Coral City Council members via email Wednesday that he has contacted Ryan Companies, which owns the 175-acre parcel off Palm Tree Boulevard. Ryan had requested a future land use change for the site from parks to single-family residential in hope of selling the property to D.R. Horton. The sale fell through when the national builder, faced with opposition from neighboring property owners and continuing requests for additional concessions and revisions, withdrew shortly before City Council’s vote on the request. Council then deadlocked 4-4 on whether to remit the land use change to the state, effectively killing it.
The email states that the city has three possible parcels for trade should Ryan Companies be open to talks concerning some type of swap for land the city owns. Those parcels are 300-plus acres off Old Burnt Store Road, the Seven Islands acreage in the north Cape that the city has deemed appropriate for “destination” type development and the 171-acre Academic Village acreage off the Del Prado extension at Kismet, which the city purchased years ago in hope of attracting a branch college campus with related uses including a public high school.
Bill McHale, executive vice president for Ryan, will now relay the idea to the firm’s CEO for possible interest in opening talks, Szerlag said.
An answer is expected as early as today, or early next week.
District 4 Councilmember Richard Leon said city staff is following Council’s post-vote direction to explore all options pertaining to the old golf course site, which is in Leon’s district.
Those options range from doing nothing, to buying the property, to considering an appropriate trade for other parcels the city owns.
“The public has to know this isn’t just three offers,” said Leon. “We’re looking at everything on the table as I asked the city manager to do. This was just one of the things that popped up and he gave us a heads-up on.
“There’s a lot of things on the table,” he added.
Szerlag just listed the largest city-owned sites, Leon said.
“They are all large vacant properties,” he said. “Ryan Companies is primarily a commercial builder; they have many great projects throughout the nation for commercial properties.”
In terms of options up for consideration, Councilmember Marilyn Stout would like to see Council agree to reconsider the vote that denied Ryan’s request to change the future land use designation for the privately owned acreage to match its existing zoning.
She, along with Leon and council members Rana Erbrick and Jessica Cosden, voted in favor of transmitting the land use change to the state.
Citing costs and incompatibility with the city’s future goals, Stout was tepid on the idea of a land swap at this point.
“I have a concern about the lack of commercial (parcels),” Stout said.
She also fears the only city-owned site likely to attract any interest would be Seven Islands.
“It is very disappointing when I think about giving up Seven Islands,” she said. “It’s, from what John believes, worth up to $15 million.”
Stout said she was told D.R. Horton’s contingency contract for the old golf course site was $13.8 million though, as park land, it is worth much less.
Seven Islands also holds the potential for on-going revenue to the city, she said.
The city, for example, received approximately $750,000 last year from The Boat House in exchange for building and operating the restaurant on city-owned land at the Yacht Club Beach.
“What if we had several of those?” she asked.
Szerlag’s email included the possible exploration of “P3” opportunities in any land exchange.
P3, or a public-private partnership, is the type of arrangement Council has indicated it was willing to explore for the Seven Islands. In 2008-09, the city also began to look at a public-private partnership to develop its Academic Village site, purchased in February of 2003 for approximately $6.8 million. In 2009, a private developer proposed building a $30 million aquatic facility with a hotel and convention center on 100 acres of the property but the Concourse at Cape Coral failed to get past the due diligence, or fact-finding, phase.
What the city would like to preclude is a second round of litigation concerning its denial of the land use change.
Last go-around, when the city denied a request to transmit a request to change the site’s future land use from parks to multi-use, the decision was challenged. Although the city won both the challenge and an appeal, the cost to the municipality was approximately $500,000.
“We could not recoup any of that cost,” Stout said.
Council has until its next regular meeting on Sept. 11 to make a motion to reconsider its vote on the land use change.
The motion cannot be brought back by any council member who voted in favor, only by a member who voted against.