Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Preservationist files federal lawsuit to block Biltmore sale

Plaintiffs in a 2014 suit filed in U.S. Middle District Court want a judge to stop the sale of the Belleview Biltmore, force repairs and bring code enforcement fines.

JIM DAMASKE | Times (2011) 

Plaintiffs in a 2014 suit filed in U.S. Middle District Court want a judge to stop the sale of the Belleview Biltmore, force repairs and bring code enforcement fines.

BELLEAIR — A preservation advocate fighting to save the former Belleview Biltmore hotel from demolition has filed a second lawsuit to block its sale — this time in federal court.

Rae Claire Johnson, president of Friends of the Belleview Biltmore, joined Wednesday with Belleair residents Doris E. Hanson and Mary Lou White on the most recent action filed in U.S. Middle District Court.

The suit accuses Belleair commissioners of nepotism and colluding in the hotel's sale by failing to enforce the town's historic preservation ordinance, code infraction process or comprehensive plan. The town's inaction, they say, has given the Biltmore's owners carte blanche to illegally withhold routine maintenance in hopes of making a case for demolition.

BB Hotel LLC, the South Florida firm that owns the hotel, is also named as a defendant.

Company owners Raphael and Daniel Ades have a contract to sell the Biltmore to St. Petersburg developer Michael Cheezem, who intends to raze the structure and build a replica inn, condos and townhomes in its place. Cheezem recently scrapped plans to preserve the lobby and restaurant, saying cost and worries about bringing the structure in line with current building codes made the idea unworkable.

The plaintiffs want a judge to stop the sale, force the hotel's owners to repair it and make the town levy code enforcement fines.

They want to be reimbursed for their court costs, and they are seeking restitution for lowered property values.

"There's no reason for the hotel to be in the condition it is," Johnson said. "They are coming in and destroying our heritage, but losing this hotel is not just about preserving our history. It's about preserving our tax base and remaining independent."

Town Manager Micah Maxwell declined to comment Thursday, saying the town attorney was still reviewing the suit.

Ed Armstrong, the Clearwater attorney for the Ades brothers, said his clients think the allegations are "completely without merit, and we intend to aggressively defend our position."

In March, Johnson filed a lawsuit in circuit court accusing the town of trying to circumvent proper hearing procedures and approving an illegal request to subdivide the property, harming any chance of preservation because there wouldn't be enough land left to meet Belleair's parking requirements. That suit is pending.

Keyonna Summers can be reached at or (727) 445-4153.

Preservationist files federal lawsuit to block Biltmore sale 05/22/14 [Last modified: Thursday, May 22, 2014 10:53pm]
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.