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Golden Gate Golf Course Development Projects

In July 2019, Collier County purchased the Golden Gate Golf Course, located at the intersection of Collier Boulevard and Golden Gate Parkway, from its owners for $29.1 million with the goal of preventing it from being over-developed and with requests to maintain a public golf course. This 165-acre property was purchased with $28 million of borrowed funds, without full environmental studies and without a development plan in place. In subsequent County Commission meetings over the last few years, Commissioners proposed projects to include the development of a veterans nursing home, affordable housing, a redesigned golf course and a golfing entertainment center with an associated non-profit golfing program.  

The Golden Gate Golf Course property, once purchased by Collier County, became non-taxable property. The intended uses noted are also unlikely to generate a significant increase in tax base. While the entertainment center might add tax base and sales tax revenues, there are currently numerous unfunded aspects that could cost taxpayers. In addition, the County committed $7 million of taxpayer funds to support the golf course refurbishment (over $400,000 has been paid to date). To maintain the high quality of life that Collier County residents enjoy, it is important that we maintain a sustainable tax base.    

In 2020, after reviewing several presentations, a contract was negotiated with Rural Neighborhoods Inc. (RNI) to lead the development of affordable workforce housing on the southern end of the property. The proposed agreement included a one-year due diligence period, at no cost to the County, to allow RNI to coordinate and plan for the proposed housing and land development. In an agenda item at the February 14, 2023 Board meeting, there was a proposal offered by Commissioner Saunders that project impact fees be “waived”.  Impact fees, if not assessed on the project, require another funding mechanism e.g. general fund dollars be used to pay the fees. The project’s impact fees are estimated to be at $5.7 million. This is a huge subsidy to the project.  The selection of this project over many other proposed projects were selected under an Invitation To Negotiate (ITN) with requirements that include: 

  • No additional County (taxpayer) subsidy 
  • An outlined proposal of the type of units and rental income levels (these are not finalized as of the last Board meeting)   

Changes to these solicited requirements would appear to require a re-solicitation for the project as they would substantially change the possible proposals that could have been made if all proposers had the advantage of factoring in added subsidies.  

Another of the proposed projects for the GG property is a long-term land lease with BSG Naples, LCC (“Big Shots”) to provide operations for a redesigned golf course (county costs of over $400,000 to date), a large golf and entertainment facility “Big Shots”, and a possible sublease with the First Tee non-profit that uses golf to mentor youth. This project has been delayed due to additional financing requirements of $4-5 million above original projections. The Lessee has until April 30, 2023 to obtain funding based upon the 5th extension amendment to the agreement. The lease was approved for Big Shots in May 2021, and since that time they have been trying to work with lenders to arrange financing for the project. The county and the developer initially agreed to extend the financing contingency period but it expired in November 2021. Later, the county approved further extension of the deadline to allow Big Shots more time to pursue the funding for the project. Big Shots contacted the County in late December 2021 requesting a further extension of the contingency period due to the unanticipated discovery of a title issue that needed to be corrected before they could close on the loan with the lender. The amendment pushed for an extension until February 28, 2022. As of the writing of this article, financing for the project has still not been confirmed and the new deadline is April 30, 2023. 

Aside from these issues, the County Commissioners discussed an agenda item that asked the county to provide funding for all soil testing and remediation for the property. The agreement with Rural Neighborhoods specifically addressed the possible remediation costs and the property was accepted “as is” with the risk for any possible remediation to fall to Rural Neighborhoods. While these projects were determined to be a benefit to the community if, or when, they are completed, the potential financial impact to our community could be much higher than anticipated.  

The final project currently planned for the Golden Gate Parcel is the proposed Veterans Nursing Facility.  The County has currently programmed $30 million as part of the one-cent infrastructure sales tax. The project is planned to have federal and state funding to include operating costs. At the February 28th BCC meeting this topic was moved to the March 14, 2023 meeting due to further contract discussions with the State.    

It may be prudent in the future, to have a development plan and funding prior to purchasing land and removing it from the taxable property base and to verify all project expenses and deadlines at the start of a project to avoid budget overruns and delayed timelines. Taxpayer dollars should be committed strategically to improve our community. We must look to creating a sustainable tax base that works to keep taxes low while providing the services that have built the quality of life we enjoy.