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The owners of the Golden Gate Country Club have offered to sell the 160-acre golf course property. Here's what you should know. Megan Kearney, mkearney@news-press.com

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Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said the Golden Gate Country Club golf course has been closed since 2016. The course was closed for part of that year and reopened in 2017.

The owners of the Golden Gate Country Club have offered to sell the 160-acre golf course property off Collier Boulevard and Golden Gate Parkway to Collier County for $28 million.

The property is part of ongoing litigation between the county and the property owners, whose plans to convert the golf course to housing sparked a controversy with neighbors.

"The county has expressed an interest" in potentially buying the property, said Michael Coleman, one of the attorneys representing the property owners, Robert and Mario Vocisano. "The Vocisanos are interested in selling it."

The offer was made Friday, Coleman said.

County Commissioner Burt Saunders, whose district includes the golf course, confirmed the offer. Commissioners are expected to discuss Tuesday whether to begin negotiations on a purchase.

County staff completed a first appraisal on the property and Florida law requires that a second appraisal be done, Saunders said.

Saunders and county officials would not disclose the appraisal, citing a Florida statute that exempts an appraisal from public record while negotiations are ongoing.

From 2016: Golden Gate golf course remains closed; neighbors wait on zoning, construction decisions

More: Golden Gate golf course where homes proposed will reopen for season

Saunders said he expects the second appraisal to be completed "fairly quick." He said the goal would be to have a "definitive purchase agreement" within the next couple of weeks. 

What the county would do with the property if it were to buy it is unclear.

"It would be premature for me to suggest what we would do with the property," Saunders said. 

However, Saunders said the property is "prime real estate" that could lend itself to different options. The main objective of a purchase, he said, would be to generate "significant public use" and protect the neighbors.

"That type of real estate doesn't exist in the county any longer," Saunders said, noting its location and size. He called it an "important investment in the future of the county."

Saunders said that if the county doesn't acquire it now, it might not be able to do so in the future.

The Vocisanos applied in 2015 for a zoning change to convert the golf course, one of the first public courses in Collier County, into up to 700 homes, apartments or assisted-living units.

More: Collier commissioners take no vote on deal over Golden Gate Country Club conversion

More: Settlement would push forward conversion of Golden Gate golf course

The actual number would depend on the market, said David Morrison, a real estate attorney representing the Vocisanos.

"A lot of the builders are circling the parking lot," Morrison said, referring to builders' interest in developing the project.

The application drew a lawsuit from neighbors, who argued that a deed restriction prohibited the owners from rezoning the golf course. Collier County joined the lawsuit on the side of the neighbors.

Commissioners scrambled to rewrite zoning rules to provide greater protections to homeowners who live along golf courses, fearing that more golf course owners might seek zoning changes.

The Vocisanos have argued their application predates the new rules and that they shouldn't apply to their proposed housing project.

"It's our position (that) we have a right to proceed under the old code," Coleman said.

The Vocisanos have won on the circuit court level, leading to a pending appeal at the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Tampa, Coleman said.

But regardless of the outcome of the litigation, Saunders said, the property owners would be able to develop the property in some way.

"Clearly, they would be able to develop this property," he said. "The question is to what extent."

Connect with the reporter at patrick.riley@naplesnews.com or on Twitter @PatJRiley.

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