Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Belleair commission approves Belleview Biltmore property division

Edward Shaughnessy, chief operating officer of the Belleair Country Club, gets a show of support Tuesday for the club’s plan to buy a portion of the Belleview Biltmore Resort & Spa property.


Edward Shaughnessy, chief operating officer of the Belleair Country Club, gets a show of support Tuesday for the club’s plan to buy a portion of the Belleview Biltmore Resort & Spa property.

BELLEAIR — Town commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday night to reduce the size requirement for hotel properties, dismaying preservation advocates who say the decision paves the way for demolition of the historic Belle­view Biltmore Resort & Spa.

The neighboring Belleair Country Club had requested the change in December, saying it wants to buy 2.3 acres of the Biltmore property from its Miami owners for continued use as surface parking. But that would have violated a town law that hotel properties must be at least 20 acres — the exact size of the Biltmore site — so commissioners were asked to reduce the requirement to 17.5 acres.

The amendment passed on first reading in February, but a lawsuit filed last month by preservation advocate Rae Claire Johnson, president of the Friends of the Belleview Biltmore Inc., claimed the action wasn't legal.

So the town delayed the final vote, pending a review by town attorney David Ottinger. He said his research determined the town had followed correct procedure and could proceed Tuesday.

Only Vice Mayor Stephen Fowler voted no. He said the tax revenue generated by a parking lot wouldn't "come even close" to what a hotel or residential development would.

"I just can't in my conscience vote to put a parking lot on the highest and best use land in … Pinellas County," he said.

But his colleagues said voting down the measure would interfere with the private property and transaction rights of the country club and hotel owners.

The decision came one day after Belleview Biltmore Partners LLC, a South Florida group that has spent years trying to raise enough money to buy and restore the Biltmore, told the media it had finally snagged a funding commitment from a private-equity firm to buy and renovate the hotel and an adjacent, town-owned golf course.

On Tuesday, the three partners met individually with Mayor Gary Katica and Commissioners Michael Wilkinson and Tom Shelly before pleading their case before a packed Town Hall.

Despite multiple delays over the past two years, Richard Heisenbottle, the architect who has led the preservation effort, said BBP has the finances "to move forward with this project once and for all." He even offered to fund construction of a parking garage for the country club.

Wilkinson told the Tampa Bay Times he was satisfied with signed financials BBP produced during his private meeting.

But Shelly said he was hesitant about the two-part pledge — $16 million for the first phase plus a second installment to build out the project — that BBP said it had received from an equity firm. He said BBP wouldn't reveal the total funding amount.

"They don't have the money yet," Shelly said. And "many financing commitments fall through. There's always outs that the lender has."

But commissioners said the matter is out of their hands. They referred BBP to St. Petersburg developer Mike Cheezem, who has a contract to buy the hotel from Raphael and Daniel Ades of Kawa Capital Management.

Cheezem — who has proposed condos, townhomes, a restaurant, event space or perhaps a small inn that replicates or preserves part of the original hotel — has said he is uninterested in dropping his contract.

Belleair commission approves Belleview Biltmore property division 04/01/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 10:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Two boys in critical condition after Largo crash


    LARGO — A 7-year-old boy was thrown from a car in a head-on crash on Starkey Road, and both he and a 6-year-old boy were in critical condition Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  2. Trump's new order bars almost all travel from seven countries


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday issued a new order banning almost all travel to the United States from seven countries, including most of the nations covered by his original travel ban, citing threats to national security posed by letting their citizens into the country.

    President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Sunday upon his return to the White House in Washington.
  3. Somehow, Rays' Chris Archer remains just shy of being an ace

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Chris Archer had another bad game Sunday.

    Chris Archer is sputtering to the finish line, his rough start on Sunday his fourth in his past five in which he hasn’t gotten past four innings.
  4. In Mexico City, hopes of finding quake survivors dwindle


    MEXICO CITY — Five days after the deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake, the hulking wreckage of what used to be a seven-story office building is one of the last hopes: one of just two sites left where searchers believe they may still find someone trapped alive in Mexico City.

    Rescue workers search for survivors inside a felled office building in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City on Saturday.
  5. GOP health bill in major peril as resistance hardens among key senators


    WASHINGTON — The floundering Republican attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act met hardening resistance from key GOP senators Sunday that left it on the verge of collapse even as advocates vowed to keep pushing for a vote this week.

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate, said Sunday that it was “very difficult” to envision voting for this health-care bill.