The folly of calling Jolly's win a mandate | column by Daniel Ruth, March 12
Waiting for other shoe to drop
Mr. Ruth's downplay of the Jolly victory sounds like "sour grapes" to me. Sink has sunk and Jolly is the choice made by the voters, no matter the math.
The Affordable Care Act, once proudly known as Obamacare, has been amended, by executive privilege, so often that it no longer resembles what Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi once wanted Congress to pass so that we could find out what was in it. The president has, with his trusty pen, provided so many loopholes that the individual mandate is no longer in effect.
Incumbent Democrats are shying away from their leader because of his doomed master plan. I am waiting for the other shoe to fall. The one which will provide a bailout for the insurance companies at taxpayer costs.
Orfeo Trombetta, Seminole
The folly of calling Jolly's win a mandate | column by Daniel Ruth, March 12
Overby votes change the game
Ruth's candidate Alex Sink was supposed to win. Ruth forgets to mention the Libertarian candidate, Lucas Overby, who received almost 9,000 votes. He was in the race to draw off Republican votes. The Democrats wanted to ensure their candidate won.
Add the two vote totals together and we have a mandate. The liberals will try their best spin to convince the voters Jolly had no mandate, but facts don't lie.
The writer is firmly convinced the Democrats convinced the Libertarian candidate to run, possibly financing some or all of his campaign.
Robert Noonan, Clearwater
Stop a disaster in the making
Thank you Republican voters! Our county and nation could not afford another Democrat making any social decisions and costing taxpayers more of their hard-earned money.
I'm sure most thinking and alert voters realize just what a disaster the administration has made of our country. We are rapidly becoming a third-world nation.
Ronald G. Payne, Safety Harbor
Sponge Docks and Glocks, Daniel Ruth column, March 9
Gun range brings jobs, not crime
Mr. Ruth's article about the new gun range planned for Tarpon Springs fails to mention that this once-abandoned piece of property will now be home to a state-of-the-art gun range that will produce construction jobs, range jobs, property tax revenue and sales tax revenue.
Furthermore, people traveling from all over the bay area and Southeast might actually spend some time in Tarpon Springs, boosting its tourism revenue.
What Mr. Ruth does not want to realize is that for all of his antigun rhetoric, gun crimes are at an all-time low and there is no evidence whatsoever that putting a gun range in the area increases gun violence.
John Bowman, Tampa
Valspar PGA tournament, Innisbrook resort
Price gouging at Innisbrook
This past week my 14-year-old grandson was visiting and he expressed an interest in attending the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook. I read in the Tampa Bay Times that the pro-Am on Wednesday was free admission, so we decided to attend and see if my grandson would enjoy it.
When we arrived at the entrance, I was informed that admission was $10! My grandson really enjoyed the tournament so we also attended Thursday and Friday.
I was very disappointed with the price gouging, starting with $10 to park, $4 for a bottle of water, $6 for a beer and $5 for a bagel. I attended the Masters at Augusta a few years ago and I remember buying a Coke and a sandwich for about $3.50.
I don't know who sets the prices for the food — the PGA or Innisbrook — but I think it conveys a very poor image to the public attending the tournament.
The tickets listed the items that could not be taken into Innisbrook and it was obvious these restrictions had nothing to do with security but were designed to prevent food or drinks being brought to the tournament so that attendees would have to buy these item from the vendors.
The price gouging left a very bad taste in my mouth (no pun intended) and I now view Innisbrook in a very negative light. Instead of showcasing their property, Innisbrook opted instead to force attendees to buy food and drinks at inflated prices.
Luke A. Halley, Tarpon Springs
Belleair residents don't want towers
This letter is intended to convey some observations regarding recent events in the process of determining the fate of the property now occupied by the Belleview Biltmore hotel.
The controversial RM10 proposal that was introduced for consideration by the Belleair Town Commission a few weeks ago was offered originally to protect the town from being overbuilt. (It would limit residential construction to 10 units per acre.)
However, potential developers of the hotel property seized upon the height provision in RM10 as the necessary authority to build 80-foot-tall condominium buildings — 40 feet above the tree canopy — to provide a view of the water and justify the high-end prices required to make the project profitable.
The developer who currently has an option to buy the Biltmore property confirmed, following a recent Town Commission meeting, that he intended to build to the 80-foot height.
So, in the end, the choice for the town is relatively simple: a restored hotel or twin towers (to accommodate about 130 condominiums) reaching at least 40 feet above the tree line, shattering forever the park-like atmosphere of the Residential Planned Development.
The addition of another 160 housing units — the developer plans to build approximately 130 condominiums and 32 townhouses — can only further depress property values in Belleair, certainly in the RPD, and probably in the rest of the town through a domino effect.
As the town's population ages, residents will look for opportunities to downsize in the new development, vacating single-family homes and creating another downward pressure on residential property prices. Adding more residential units to an already depressed market can only have a negative impact on real property values.
With a fully restored hotel, no one gets hurt and the park-like atmosphere of the RPD would remain intact. The Belleair Country Club wants more parking and covets 2.3 acres of the Biltmore property for that purpose. That would require commission action to reduce the minimum size of the hotel property to 17.5 acres, thus enabling the current owners to sell the 2.3 acres to the club. Without those 2.3 acres, any hope of preserving and restoring the hotel could come to an end.
There is a better solution.
For less money than the rumored purchase price of the coveted parcel, a deck could be built over the club's current parking area, doubling its capacity. I would also imagine the town could persuade a new owner, committed to restoring the hotel, to help the club build that deck.
The country club has been a good citizen, is well-managed and is an asset to the community, but its membership, a large portion of which is made up of non-Belleair residents, should not dictate town policy.
Regarding the current condition of the hotel, none of us should be considered blameless. As residents and taxpayers, we should have been more insistent that the town aggressively enforce the specific requirement of the town's Comprehensive Plan: "...to preserve the Belleview Biltmore Hotel." As our elected representatives, commission members should have been more mindful of that obligation.
In any event, our combined neglect and the present condition of the hotel should not be used as an excuse to avoid the town's duty to preserve the hotel. That obligation is undiminished and ongoing.
In the last month, I have knocked on the doors or rung the doorbells of close to 300 Belleair residences and spoken with more than 100 residents. Only two openly opposed the restoration of the hotel. Some made no definitive comment, but a clear majority expressed their support for restoring the Biltmore.
I have not heard a single resident of Belleair express a preference for two high-rise condominium towers stretching well above the tree line on the highest point in the town, over a restored, historic Belleview Biltmore Hotel.
Jim Betts, Belleair