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Belleview Biltmore Resort & Spa's roof causes snag

A lien on the Belleview Biltmore Resort & Spa’s deteriorated roof has more than $100,000 in unpaid fines attached to it.

Courtesy of Emanuel Mersis

A lien on the Belleview Biltmore Resort & Spa’s deteriorated roof has more than $100,000 in unpaid fines attached to it.

BELLEAIR — The Belleview Biltmore's dilapidated roof has created a stumbling block for a prospective buyer.

Kawa Capital Management doesn't want a lien tied to fines for the hotel's roof to impede its plans for the hotel's golf course and its Sand Key Cabana Club.

On Monday, in a letter to Belleair's town manager, a lawyer representing Kawa asked Belleair officials to consider lifting the lien, which was filed in November 2009 after the town fined the owner $250 a day for code violations related to the roof.

In return, Tampa lawyer Roger Schwenke's client would create an escrow account with $200,000 to maintain or repair the roof, Schwenke wrote.

But the offer didn't seem to mesh with the discussion Belleair leaders had with Schwenke at last week's town commission work session, Town Manager Micah Maxwell said.

"The commission was talking about forgiving the fees, if, within a period of time, they fixed the roof," Maxwell said.

The unpaid fines have grown to more than $100,000, he said.

It's not clear how the funds in the escrow account would rectify the code violations and guarantee the complete repair of the roof, which by the owner's previous estimates would cost millions of dollars, he said.

Maxwell said he plans to meet with Schwenke to clarify those issues.

If Kawa's offer doesn't guarantee the roof will be fixed, it means the town would lift the lien "and then get nothing," said Mayor Gary Katica.

"I get tired of being treated like we just fell off the back of a turnip truck," Katica said.

Daniel Ades, a director of Kawa, had said he planned to sell the hotel property after buying it. He said his key interest was in upgrading the golf course. Ades and his brother, Raphael, met with town leaders in October to discuss their interest in the hotel's assets.

At the Dec. 7 work session, Schwenke said his client felt that it would be the responsibility of the buyer of the Biltmore to fix the roof. He said he'd like to see if there was a way to modify the lien so it does not encumber anything but the hotel property.

Deputy Mayor Steve Fowler said he didn't like that idea.

"I am not in favor of giving away any of our bargaining chips," he said at the work session.

Katica said he ran into one of the Ades brothers at the hotel golf club the other day and that he told Katica they want to close on the Biltmore on Dec. 29.

Legg Mason Real Estate Investors, now known as Latitude Management Real Estate Investors, bought the hotel in 2007.

The roof has been in disrepair since the summer storms of 2004.

Town commissioners will consider Kawa's request at Tuesday's town meeting.

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4155.

Belleview Biltmore Resort & Spa's roof causes snag 12/15/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 15, 2010 7:55pm]
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