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Belleview Biltmore owners want lien lifted in return for what they've done for Belleair

BELLEAIR — One of the Belleview Biltmore's owners came to town to ask for a "goodwill gesture."

The city has a lien against all of the properties associated with the historic former hotel. And Daniel Ades, part of the Miami team that owns the property, asked town leaders to lift the lien on one of them, the Cabana Club on Sand Key.

After all, he told town commissioners on Tuesday, the owners have done a lot for the town. They've spent a tremendous amount of money to refurbish the Biltmore's golf club (which they own). They've paid for a feasibility study on the hotel (which didn't meet the town's needs). And they've searched for a developer who can restore the Belleview Biltmore (which hasn't panned out).

"It really has become time for us to request something from the city in return," Ades said.

The request didn't sit well with town leaders, who unanimously rejected the request after grilling Ades for about 20 minutes.

"It doesn't sound like it's a good business decision for the town to make," Commissioner Kevin Piccarreto said.

He took issue with a claim by Ades' brother, Raphael, who wrote town leaders last month saying the team bought the defaulted mortgage and "inherited" the decaying hotel.

Piccarreto said they knew about the fines for the Biltmore's damaged roof when they bought the hotel in December 2010.

In fact, a lawyer representing one of Ades' businesses failed to persuade town leaders to lift the lien on the Biltmore properties days before Ades' team bought the hotel, its golf club and Cabana Club for about $8 million.

The $250-a-day fines for the roof have climbed to about $220,000. The roof was damaged in the summer storms of 2004, when it had a different owner. In 2007, the Biltmore was sold to Legg Mason Real Estate Investors and the lien was filed in November 2009.

After Piccarreto pushed for an explanation for Ades' request to lift the lien, Ades said the Cabana Club is for sale.

The gulf-front Cabana Club is listed for $3 million on a real estate website. The ad for the club property says it "provides for a turnkey oceanfront restaurant or development opportunity on Sand Key."

Ades also said the group is still trying to find someone interested in preserving the Belleview Biltmore.

Commissioner Michael Wilkinson questioned the logic of breaking up the hotel's assets, saying the Biltmore would have more value with the beach club.

Deputy Mayor Stephen Fowler offered a suggestion for making the lien go away: Fix the roof.

Ades said it didn't make sense to pour millions of dollars into a roof renovation.

Mayor Gary Katica said Ades was "dancing around waiting for the town to make an offer." He asked if Ades was prepared to pay to get what he wants.

"If the request from the city is for us to pay the full fine, unfortunately that's not something we're ready to do," Ades said.

The lien would not be automatically lifted even if the owners paid the fine.

Ades declined comment after the meeting. But on Wednesday, Matthew Cummings, a consultant who has a 3 percent stake in the Biltmore, said Ades wasn't surprised by the tenor of the meeting.

"He heard exactly what I told him he was going to hear," Cummings said.

Ades' team has a long-term lease on the Cabana Club property, but that doesn't affect the lien any differently than if they owned it, said town attorney David Ottinger.

The 100-year lease, which dates back to the 1980s, is automatically renewable for another 100 years, Cummings said.

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

Belleview Biltmore owners want lien lifted in return for what they've done for Belleair 03/21/12 [Last modified: Thursday, March 22, 2012 6:45pm]

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