BELLEAIR — Belleair's leaders are tired of waiting for owners of the historic Belleview Biltmore to start making necessary repairs, and they're willing to take legal action to get their point across.
The Town Commission was briefed Tuesday night on the condition of the 820,000-square-foot building, discussing a report prepared by Clearwater-based McCarthy and Associates.
According to the consultant's report, water seeping in through the dilapidated roof and other openings has led to extensive damage to the 114-year-old hotel.
E. Michael McCarthy, the firm's president, estimated it would take six months to a year to do the needed repairs. He hesitated to talk about the bottom line.
"What I can't address is the financial concerns of the developer, or if it's financially feasible," he said.
Disheartened with the findings, commissioners discussed the possibility of deeming the building's condition to be "demolition by neglect" — a violation of city code that could lead to more fines against the building's owners.
Town Attorney David Ottinger said that if nothing happened soon, the city could seek an injunction to impose stricter fines. The town already had fined the building's previous owner $250 a day for roof damage and those fines, inherited by the new owner, have accrued to more than $118,000.
Commissioners plan to prepare a list of specific items that need to be addressed. Officials will meet next week with Raphael Ades, one of a group of Miami investors who have owned the hotel since December.
"We'll try to do our best to comply," Ades said in an interview Wednesday.
According to city code, once the city gives owners notice of the violation, they would have 30 days to initiate repairs or face fines and possibly an injunction.
"We've been accommodating for a long time, but we can't let it get any further," Ottinger said.
Ades said he and his partners are considering construction estimates that they've received, which have hovered around $4 million. He said he thought the 30 days is enough time to get started, and that the city is being fair.
"I'm happy with the community of Belleair," he said. "I hope I can make them happy."
Mayor Gary Katica said it was a shame the situation has gotten to this point, but the city will do what it can.
"We want to be good neighbors, but please do not step on our heads," he said.
Community members attended the session to air grievances over $41,000 in unpaid homeowners association fees, some of which date to the hotel's previous owners.
Although the city has no jurisdiction over the matter, residents still raised the issue.
"We want them to start paying," said Jim White, vice president of the association. "They said they wanted to be a good member of the community, but talk is cheap, and I'd like them to put their money where their mouth is."
Ades said he would like to negotiate further with the association to determine a payment that is fair to both parties.