City officials give support to reopening Bonita Springs Golf &Country Club

Communication tax also discussed at meeting

A starter shack, dilapidated and defaced inside, remains on the property of the Bonita Springs Golf and Country Club. A group of Bonita Springs citizens will ask the Bonita Springs City Council on Wednesday to give its support as the group seeks money from the Lee County Industrial Development Authority to create a public golf course on the land that has been sitting unused for several years. Lexey Swall/Staff

Photo by LEXEY SWALL // Buy this photo

A starter shack, dilapidated and defaced inside, remains on the property of the Bonita Springs Golf and Country Club. A group of Bonita Springs citizens will ask the Bonita Springs City Council on Wednesday to give its support as the group seeks money from the Lee County Industrial Development Authority to create a public golf course on the land that has been sitting unused for several years. Lexey Swall/Staff

A starter shack, dilapidated and defaced inside, remains on the property of the Bonita Springs Golf and Country Club. A group of Bonita Springs citizens will ask the Bonita Springs City Council on Wednesday to give its support as the group seeks money from the Lee County Industrial Development Authority to create a public golf course on the land that has been sitting unused for several years. Lexey Swall/Staff

Photo by LEXEY SWALL // Buy this photo

A starter shack, dilapidated and defaced inside, remains on the property of the Bonita Springs Golf and Country Club. A group of Bonita Springs citizens will ask the Bonita Springs City Council on Wednesday to give its support as the group seeks money from the Lee County Industrial Development Authority to create a public golf course on the land that has been sitting unused for several years. Lexey Swall/Staff

"I have no doubt that you will be successful”

— Mayor Ben Nelson on the camapaign efforts to reopen the golf course.

The community momentum to reopen the Bonita Springs Golf and Country Club impressed city council members enough that they moved Wednesday to create a resolution in honor of local organizers and volunteers.

The golf course discussion was described as “an informational status report” on the meeting’s agenda, but praise from the councilmembers turned it into a unanimous move to officially endorse the organizers— known as the Bonita Springs Golf Course Development Group.

Several residents from different communities across the city have come together to fundraise and promote the reopening.

Bonnie Whittemore, who was at the meeting, is the president of the homeowners association at Fairway Dunes, one of the communities involved in the efforts. The Fairway Dunes properties are right next to the closed course.

Whittemore said she wants the restoration efforts go forward and see the golf course “cleaned up.”

“I looked out to a beautiful putting green, and now they’ve put up condos,” Whittemore said.

The golf course and club first opened in 1977 and closed in 2006. It could cost as much as $7 million to purchase the property and restore the course.

Funds from memberships and donations would have to bankroll the reopening. Whittemore claims all 80 of her fellow Fairway Dunes residents have volunteered to solicit memberships to the club.

Because of those efforts Councilman John Spear suggested the resolution, and called the volunteers “a model for other groups who come to us.”

Councilwoman Martha Simons also thanked “folks for getting their heads together.”

For his part, Mayor Ben Nelson said he believes the campaign to reopen and restore the golf course is a “positive model for the community.”

“I have no doubt that you will be successful,” he said.

In other action Wednesday, City officials were trying to figure out whether or not to raise the Communications Service Tax due to concerns that a possible state law would force them to permanently keep the current rate of 1.8 percent, which the lowest in Lee County.

“The cap … just absolutely locked you into that particular moment,” said Carole Green, a consultant and lobbyist for the city in Tallahassee, at Wednesday’s meeting.

The Communications Service Tax is a fee applied to services such as cable television, direct-to-home satellite and telephone.

Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel residents all pay a rate of 5.22 percent. Those in unincorporated Lee County pay 3.61 percent.

To remain revenue neutral in case of an increase to the CST rate, city officials could reduce the property tax rate, City Manager Carl Schwing said.

No final decision has been made yet. City officials agreed to discuss the tax further at the next budget hearing scheduled for July 25 at 9 a.m.

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