Common sense and economic reality are taking hold in the long debate over the future of a long-faded landmark. The Belleair town commission this week reversed course and started down a sensible path that should lead to demolishing the irreparably damaged Belleview Biltmore hotel and redeveloping the property. Preservation of historic buildings is a worthy goal, but it is too late and too unrealistic to demand that this one remain standing.
The fate of the closed wood structure, damaged by water and mold, has split the town for years. As preservationists demanded the Biltmore be saved, the commission voted last month to wait six months before discussing rezoning the property for condos and town homes. But the commission had a change of heart after hearing from the town's country club, which wants a small portion of the hotel's 20 acres for parking, and warming to plans by St. Petersburg developer Mike Cheezem to transform the property.
Town officials will make suggestions about new zoning categories in April that could accommodate Cheezem's project and eventually clear the way for demolishing the Biltmore. Cheezem, who has a contract to buy the property, has offered to save a small portion of the hotel but makes clear most of the building has to go. That sounds reasonable, and Belleair should stay on this course. A smart mixed-use development that preserves even a fraction of the Biltmore is far preferable to letting the hotel continue to deteriorate while its sentimental supporters wait for a miracle that is not coming.