Hotel delay rests on 3 litigious men
A nuisance lawsuit by three men of Belleair has changed everything for the long-awaited renovation of the 111-year-old Belleview Biltmore hotel and for those of us who live in the community around the hotel.
When the hotel closes down in May of next year, instead of beginning the renovation process as planned, the owners will have no choice but to board up the old structure and wait until this lawsuit against the town laboriously wends its way through the court system.
The lawsuit was brought by three men: Fred Thomas, who became wealthy from his chain of pool supply stores called Pinch-A-Penny; Scott Spencer of Spencer International Investments (an investment firm started by his father, James Spencer); and Bob Swinehart.
When the hotel is closed down, the other 559 households of the homeowners association will face yet another hurricane season with the hotel, the largest wooden structure in North America, in disrepair and the possibility of a flying lumber yard in the event of high winds or a major hurricane. Besides the safety issues, residents will face declining property values in the shadow of the boarded-up old hotel with ugly blue tarps on the roof and exposed to the ravages of nature like weather, rats and roaches.
One only needs to look up the history of the Vinoy in downtown St. Petersburg to see what happens to boarded-up buildings. It sat for 11 years before it was finally rescued and restored.
And the town of Belleair will have to raise tax rates because of the lawsuit costs and decreased contributions to local taxes. (Not much can be collected from a boarded-up old hotel and declining assessments of the property around it.) And delayed for a very long time will be the town's ability to help preserve the historical heritage of a hotel which existed way before the town.
Mr. Thomas and Mr. Spencer make part of their very good living off the residents of Belleair. Yet they are hurting those very residents. What to do? If you are one of those clients or customers, ask them to drop their lawsuit. Appeal to them to think of the welfare of the community. If this doesn't work, maybe you should vote with your dollars, and take your business elsewhere.
If you are one of the homeowners in the Belleview Biltmore Homeowners Association, appeal to Tom duPont, the president of the association, to require that these three men step down from the board.
What a shame that three litigious men can so negatively affect a whole community. But Mr. Thomas is no stranger to the newspapers. Look through the online archives of the St. Petersburg Times regarding Mr. Thomas and his history.
I would like to think that maybe there is still hope, that maybe these men can listen to reason — if not for themselves, then for their own children and the next generation that will inherit the community.
Sandy Hutton, Belleair
Uncomfortable with 'sorcerer'
Upon a recent drive through downtown Clearwater, I was amazed at the redevelopment and the restoration of the old familiar buildings. I thought to myself, "Wow, downtown has a chance of living once again." Then I viewed a picture in the St. Petersburg Times of a particular sculpture erected downtown and called Sorcerer's Gate.
The sculpture did not set right with me, because through the years of studying my Bible, sorcerers and sorcery were always linked with evil (witches, witchcraft). I'm just wondering, why would city officials allow our beautiful city be linked to such? My opinion: Give the devil a ride and soon he'll be driving the city.
City Manager Bill Horne stated, "Either you will have an appreciation or you won't." Well, I won't and don't have an appreciation for anything that's inviting anyone through a gate with such a name.
Why not "Heaven's Gate"?
Barbara A. Mack, Clearwater