NAPLES, Fla. — Golden Gate Golf Course’s lengthy fate has taken another step forward. But there are many steps ahead.
The second of two stakeholders meetings regarding the future of the golf course property purchased by Collier County 19 months ago was held Monday night, led by Jessica Harrelson, a senior planner at Davidson Engineering that is handling the project.
Josh Fruth, vice president of Davidson Engineering, Geoffrey Willig and Margaret Bishop of Collier County, Bill Gramer of Jacobs Engineering and Steve Kirk of Rural Neighborhoods also were part of the meeting.
Monday’s meeting for the most part was presenting again three different plans for the property, and allowing feedback through residents’ online voting on a series of questions on how they felt about certain plan aspects.
“Davidson Engineering and the county will consolidate the feedback that we have received through these public meetings when we come before the Board for the Planned Unit Development Rezone for the property,” Willig said in a follow-up email Wednesday.
Any question involving keeping golf on the property received nearly overwhelming approval at both meetings.
There were no public comments for Monday’s meeting, although those were permitted at the first stakeholders meeting on Feb. 22. Comments could be made in writing.
The winding journey since Collier County purchased the property in Aug. 1, 2019, looks much like a dogleg golf hole.
At first, Collier County commissioners sought fulfilling residents’ desire of retaining some sort of golf course by partnering with ClubCorp/Big Shots Golf, pairing a golf course of 9 or 12 holes with an entertainment golf facility similar to Topgolf or PopStroke, both of which are planning to or have opened in Fort Myers.
But that deal fell through in October after ClubCorp inspected the existing irrigation system and asked for $7 million from the county to help replace it. That wasn’t going to happen.
Commissioners then decided to start over.
The county bought the 167-acre golf course for $29 million. Plans for the site also include workforce housing, possibly a veterans nursing home, and in the plans presented at the stakeholders meeting, the possibility of some commercial development. The latter was roundly voted against online by residents Monday, but any of that voting is being passed along to county commissioners for informational purposes. There’s also a survey for residents on the website set up by the county at colliergggcproject.com.
In November, commissioners unanimously approved a developer agreement with a builder who will construct affordable housing on part of the county property. About 25 acres are slated for 100 affordable units for seniors and 250 essential service personnel workforce housing units.
Five percent of the units are dedicated to serving veterans.
The housing project will draw about $5 million in funding from a workforce housing land trust fund established through a sales tax increase passed by voters in 2018.
The future of a golf course on the property depends on a couple of factors: what vendor the county can come to an agreement with and what that vendor has in mind and which plan is ultimately approved, because the three plans have different acreage for the golf course.
The first plan allows for 110.6 acres for a golf, the second 77.9 acres, and the third 91.1, with the differences each being filled by commercial development.
According to the American Society of Golf Course Architects, a full-sized, 18-hole course would need between 120 and 200 acres, so none of the three plans would accommodate a course like that. So that leaves a 9-hole or 12-hole course, or even though it hasn’t been mentioned, a shorter 18-hole course that would include more par-3 holes than a usual full-size course.
“It’s 9, 12, 18, we’re not sure until we have an opportunity to look at the bids that we’ve received,” Willig said when asked during Monday’s meeting. “In terms of it’s public or private, since it would be the county’s plan and the county would have a vendor, if it goes that direction — a vendor to offer a golf course — it would not be a private golf course at all.”
Many of those voting Monday and on Feb. 22 were residents immediately around the golf course, and that includes the Pars, a series of condominiums on the inside of the course.
If an agreement to keep a golf course at the site can’t be reached, the other option is to make it a park.
“Surrounding the Pars will either be a golf course or a passive park,” Harrelson said when asked by someone at the meeting.
The Invitation To Negotiate closed Monday afternoon for those submitting bids for the actual golf course.
“The decision will likely be heard by the Board at the second meeting in April following the county’s selection committee review,” Willig said via email Wednesday.
The golf course has been closed since the county bought it.
The county first entered into an agreement to maintain the property as a golf course with Kova Golf and The First Tee of Naples/Collier while it figured out exactly what it wanted to do with it — with the consensus that the property would not remain just a golf course.
Both Kova and The First Tee were attempting to come to an agreement with the county on the property, but that did not happen either, and the maintenance agreement ended a year ago. County staff have doing any upkeep since then.
Robert and Mario Vocisano purchased the course and its adjoining hotel in 1972. The hotel is not part of the sale to the county.
The course opened in 1965, and it hosted the LPGA Tour’s Sarah Coventry Classic in 1976. Jan Stephenson, a World Golf Hall of Fame member, won the tournament for her first LPGA victory.
Prior to the course’s closure, little was done as far as grassing or renovating it since the early 1990s. Dick Wilson was the original course architect, but he died before the course was finished. It was then completed and opened. Joe Lee, another designer who had previously worked for Wilson on the project, came in and redid the course in 1990 or 91.
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/03/26/florida-community-debates-future-golden-gate-golf-course/