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Belleair town leaders seek refund on Belleview Biltmore study

BELLEAIR — Town leaders are so disappointed with a $55,000 feasibility study of the Belleview Biltmore, they want a refund.

A few months ago, the town hired a Las Vegas consultant to find out if restoring the 114-year-old hotel is economically feasible. And if not, town officials asked StoneCreek Partners LLC to explain how other projects on the 22-acre site might impact the community.

They got neither, they say.

In a five-page letter to Donald Bredberg of StoneCreek Partners on Friday, Town Manager Micah Maxwell blasted the consultant for repeated delays, excuses and misrepresentations, calling the study a "total failure."

Maxwell informed Bredberg the report, due Sept. 8, was submitted incomplete and 22 days late. It lacked most of the information the town requested and provided "no useful guidance" for future decisions on the redevelopment of the site, Maxwell wrote. Therefore, Maxwell said, the town plans to pursue a refund.

Among other complaints, Maxwell said the consultant failed to compare current town revenues with post-renovation revenues in its analysis of various options, except to assume the town would waive property taxes.

Undeterred by Maxwell's criticism, Bredberg pledged to fulfill his company's obligation. In an e-mail to the St. Petersburg Times on Monday, he said he plans to submit a supplement to his firm's report on Oct. 10.

Miami investor Raphael Ades and his partners bought the Biltmore and other hotel assets for about $8 million in December. They didn't participate in the town's study, but they donated $55,000 to Belleair to cover the bill. Last week, Maxwell said the consultant had been paid $42,500 of the total cost.

The town initially delayed a meeting to discuss the report until mid October. But Friday, Maxwell informed the consultant that it wasn't necessary for him to present the report on Oct. 18, either.

Meanwhile, support may be waning for the landmark, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Commissioner Tom Shelly said most in town favor preservation. But Mayor Gary Katica said he hears the opposite.

"Every place I go people are talking about how it's going to be knocked down, not if," Katica said.

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

Belleair town leaders seek refund on Belleview Biltmore study 10/04/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 4, 2011 7:19pm]
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