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Environmental concerns slow golf acreage talks

By Staff | Dec 6, 2018

Negotiations to purchase a 175-acre former golf course have slowed down as the city of Cape Coral looks to find out more about environmental concerns related to the property and the cost of a remediation process that could take months to complete.

City Council members authorized City Manager John Szerlag to begin negotiating the purchase of the old golf course from the owner The Ryan Company back in February. An appraisal of the property was delivered in April, valuing the property between $10 million and $18 million depending on how the land was to be used, but that appraisal was given for a clean site.

The acreage is not a “clean site,” according to Councilmember Jessica Cosden, who said that the environmental issues could significantly impact the city’s negotiations.

“Arsenic contamination (is the issue.) It’s an old golf course.” said Cosden. “They used fertilizers pesticides and chemicals that contaminate the ground with arsenic. Initial testing showed arsenic in certain parts of the golf course, and that’s what the clean up is about.”

The city enlisted the services of George Gramling of Gramling Environmental Law, who suggested that Cape Coral hire Geosyntec Consultants Inc., to evaluate the property and the extent of remediation that would be necessary. The council authorized up to $50,000 of services from Geosyntec Consultants during their Nov. 19 meeting.

Cosden said that the extent of the contamination is still unknown and that a timeline for the remediation was unavailable, but that process would take multiple months. The cost for the remediation would fall on the current owner, The Ryan Company, if the city where to move forward with the negotiations.

“It’s their responsibility; they knew they were buying an old golf course, and they must of known when they bought it that there were environmental issues,” Cosden said.

For years, the city, local leaders, and nearby residents have debated the fate of the site.

Save Our Recreation, a local organization made up of nearby property owners, has supported the city’s purchase of the old golf course property for use as a park. Spokesman Barth Wolf said in a phone interview that while the organization would like to see the purchase move forward, they understand the city’s need to exercise caution and negotiate a deal that would avoid paying the cost of remediation.

“We’re interested in having the purchase completed as soon as possible, but we also understand the city needs to be diligent in protecting themselves from any uncertainty around environmental clean up costs,” said Wolf.

It is too early to say whether the acquisition would ultimately be a good deal for the city, according to Cosden, who added she would need a better understanding of the damage and costs involved before giving the purchase her approval.

“We don’t know the extent of the damage, we don’t know what the price will be at the end.” said Cosden. “If it becomes a park, my kids will probably play there, and so that’s how I’m approaching this decision with my comfort level: Would I want my kids to play on this site.”