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Golf course purchase vote expected Monday

By Staff | Feb 1, 2018

With a concensus vote in favor in hand, Cape Coral City Council is expected to formally decide Monday whether to pursue purchase the 175-acre property dubbed the old golf course.

If Council authorizes City Manager John Szerlag to open negotiations with the site’s owner, Ryan Companies, the next step likely will be to decide what should be done with the acreage should it come into public ownership.

Opinions vary.

“I would like to see 150 acres of environmental and 25 acres for the city to build a Boys and Girls Club, a five-star restaurant, a senior center and tennis and pickleball courts,” said Carl Veaux of Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife.

Others saw a use more in keeping with the idea of making the land a “central park” that would draw residents city wide.

“I would like to see a 2,500-seat amphitheater and bring in plays and symphonies and make it a money-making scenario,” said Councilmember John Carioscia. “We can also put in all kinds of trails. It will pay for itself.”

For anything to happen, the city will need to negotiate a price, which right now is $12 million, then come up with a way to pay for the purchase and any improvements.

Based on the consensus vote this past Monday, Council is expected to move to the next step.

“The indication from the majority of council members was they all had an interest in buying the property,” said Connie Barron, city spokesperson. “I think there was an expectation of City Council that they wished to proceed with perusing the purchase and that the city manager would move as quickly as possible to begin negotiations.”

According to a memo sent by Szerlag, Ryan Companies would remediate the property according to a final review written by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The city would have 18 months from the contract signing to pay Ryan Companies, with monthly payments acceptable if the two sides can agree to a payment schedule.

Any sales contract would go to City Council for its approval.

Among the sources of payment being considered are a 10-year loan supported by general fund reserves. Other revenue sources could include proceeds from the sale, lease or public-private partnership of the city-owned the Seven Islands acreage, reshuffling of capital priorities, grants or a partnership with Lee County for public-use purposes. The use of Conservation 20/20 funding is likely not an option.

In related business, Szerlag will also ask Council to grant a request for a joint meeting between the city and Lee County commissioners on ways the two could partner on public use of the golf course property.

For John Jacobs, president of the Northwest Neighborhood Association, a potential sale of Seven Islands would not be an option, since he believes the city would lose control of development.

“Seven Islands is a jewel. We would be selling it short and throwing all the work away that we’ve done on that,” Jacobs said. “We were involved in the process. If they sell or swap the Seven Islands, all the work we’ve done is gone and a developer can come in and do whatever he pleases.”

“The golf course won’t have too much of an impact on us. Most of us don’t go down there,” said John Karcher, vice president of the NWNA. “If they do all they say about fixing up the Yacht Club, and they buy the golf course, they should do it without additional taxes to the residents.

Mayor Joe Coviello said he didn’t foresee more taxes, since more people are moving to the city and property values continue to rise.