Election 2022: Candidate Question of the Week – The old golf course property
Each week through the primary, The Breeze will ask the candidates for Cape Coral City Council an issue-related question. In the interest of fairness, each candidate is limited to the same amount of space, about 100 words, for their response. This week’s Question of the Week is Should the city of Cape Coral continue to pursue purchase of the old golf course acreage? If so, for what purpose?
The 2022 municipal election for Cape Coral City Council features four races — the seats for mayor and Districts 1, 4 and 6. While candidates must live in the district they seek to represent, Cape Coral City Council races are non-partisan, citywide races, meaning every registered Cape voter, no matter their party affiliation or city address, may cast a ballot in every race in both the primary and general election.
Races with more than two qualifying candidates are placed on the primary ballot, which this year will be held Aug. 23 with Seats 1 & 4 on the ballot. The two primary candidates receiving the most votes in each race will then be candidates in the City General Election which also will include the District 6 seat and the race for mayor. (If there are fewer than three qualifying candidates in any a given race, their names will not appear on the primary election ballot. They will appear on the City General Election ballot only.)
Here are this week’s responses:
Primary Elections races: Cape Coral City Council Districts 1 & 4
• Dr. Carol Rae Culliton
The City should continue its efforts to purchase the land that was the City’s first golf course. Like the Yacht Club, the golf course is part of our history. The Country Club membership was part of the amenities, along with membership to the Yacht Club, that new owners received during the Cape’s early years. It was the site of the 1972 NCAA tournament that ended in a tie between University of Texas team mates, and future PGA stars Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite.
Before the City goes forward with the purchase, current owner(s) must correct the pollution and contamination issues. The property, due to its location and history, should become a park. Residents of the area should have input on the amenities which could include walking and bicycle paths and an amphitheater, and fountains with waltzing waters.
• Jean Pierre Etcheverry Jr
• Bill Steinke
Cape Coral Country Club (and then “The Golf Club”) was a crown jewel for our City in the beginning, drew national attention in the early ’70s and was a huge social draw. Banyan Trace Condominiums actually used to be the Cape Coral Country Club Inn, overlooking the course. If the purchase can be wisely made and the environmental concerns are rectified (either by Seller, or a reduction in acquisition cost allowing same), to regain the direction of that property for the benefit of our citizens, with variety and flexibility and rebuild the sense of community that was once there I believe would be exciting
• Ally Wharton
• Joshua B. Clark
I believe the city should pursue the old golf course. I think it would be a great place for an indoor/outdoor recreational facility. For a city the size of Cape Coral we should have multiple recreational centers. We need these facilities for our community and especially our youth.
• Patty Cummings
The land can be restored as a safe and green space.
Our councilman Dan Sheppard has been communicating with the owner for over a year about ideas that can be done. There are many things that can be brought to this old golf course to keep it a family feel. Here are some ideas. How about a botanical garden, hiking, and bike trails, along with a small business front with restaurants, music, novelty shops, ice cream stand, and outdoor sports shop with bikes and hiking gear rental for the day? It could even have an area for fitness for kids, indoor sport complex, Olympic training or another golf course.
The possibilities are endless. The city and residents gain the best of both worlds with this investment. The home value goes up and it’s a win for the residents and the city.
• Jennifer I. Nelson, incumbent
I am in full support for the purchase of the old golf course. In late 2017, council voted to approve the purchase. We committed to the residents and we need to fulfill our commitment. With the recent Urban Land Institute study, our city lacks in amenities and green space. Once the city can verify the arsenic was mitigated according to FDEP standards, I would support negotiations to purchase.
General Election Ballot:
• John Gunter, incumbent
I have always and will continue to support the purchase of the old golf course property with conditions. This area could be revitalized into another great destination location for our city. Unfortunately, this area has been tested and identified with soil and groundwater contamination issues. The city has notified the property owner of our intent to suspend any further discussion to purchase the property until they work with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to identify the magnitude of the contamination and develop a mitigation plan. Additionally, the property owners must complete the mitigation plan outlined by FDEP at their expense before this property will be considered as a viable property for purchase. If the City of Cape Coral purchases this property prematurely it would expose the taxpayers of our city to costly mitigation fees and possible future liabilities. As of this time the property owners have not completely engaged with FDEP to develop a mitigation plan for this site.
• Tom Shadrach
The property surrounding the old golf course is densely populated and adjacent residents bought their homes to live a “golfing” lifestyle. No resident or multi-family zoning should be allowed for this area. With the current Parks GO bond mismanagement, I cannot support buying this property just to let it sit vacant for 10-years or more. I would purchase the property on contingency of an environmental impact study determining the cost of mitigation. Once verified, only then would the city open the property to developers on a lease basis. This project must keep our residents in mind first! Suggestions are to re-open as a golf course, a botanical garden, restaurants, banquet center, recreation facility, etc. City ownership would add another burden to city taxpayers, that’s not the answer.
• Wayne Hecht
Yes, I am in favor of pursuing the purchase of the golf course. This was the same question that was also asked of all candidates that ran for council two years ago. Two years after the council voted to buy the course and 16 years since its closing we are still looking for solutions. I may not have the exact solution today, but I can guarantee that we will not still be asking the same question two years from now if I am elected.
• Keith Long, incumbent
The old golf course property could be gem for Cape Coral. Without question, the City would love to gain control of a site of that size in that location. How we get there is and has been the issue–whether that is dealing with the environmental concerns or the question of how we pay for it. With respect to the latter, in a perfect world the City would enter into a public/private partnership for the land and “develop” it into a community center as intended with recreational offerings as well as a potential small amphitheater and other community-oriented offerings.
• Primary Election: Tuesday, Aug. 23
• Deadline to request that a Vote-by-Mail Ballot to be mailed: 5 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 13
• Early Voting for the Primary: Saturday, Aug. 13, to Saturday, Aug. 20, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., daily.
• General Election: Tuesday, Nov. 8
For more information on the 2022 races and candidates:
• The Breeze will post all of its elections stories here at Capecoralbreeze.com.
• The Cape Coral City Clerk’s Office posts all city-election related documents, including campaign reports at capecoral.gov/department/clerk/Candidatereports.php.
• The Lee County Supervisor of Elections has a wealth of elections-related information concerning registration, voting, dates and candidate lists and documents on its website, lee.vote.
• The League of Women Voters, Lee County offers election-related information on its website, my.lwv.org/florida/lee-county, and plans a Virtual Candidate Forums before the primary.