1. Pinellas

Belleair Golf Club wants a waterfront hole on town land

Shown is the vacant property in Hallett Park that Belleair officials may lease to the Belleair Golf Club. TOM GERMOND   |   Special to the Times
Shown is the vacant property in Hallett Park that Belleair officials may lease to the Belleair Golf Club. TOM GERMOND | Special to the Times
Published Aug. 22, 2019

BELLEAIR — Belleair Golf Club President Hal Bodley said that on one of his frequent golf trips, he played the iconic No. 7 hole at Pebble Beach, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

His wife, Patricia, took a picture as he hit a golf ball onto the green. He had the photo enlarged, took it home and placed on a large frame in his office.

"That hole has always been a passion for me," Bodley said at a recent Town Commission meeting.

Bodley wants to share that passion by creating a golf hole overlooking Clearwater Harbor at the northern tip of Hallett Park, and he received support from town officials for his plan. The parcel is west of Bayview Drive north of Waterfall Park.

Under a proposal presented to town commissioners before a full house at Town Hall, club representatives asked commissioners to consider an agreement that would allow the club to create the hole and lease the town property for 60 years if all renewal options were exercised. Commissioners said they are willing to negotiate with the club.

"We want it to be a win-win situation for everybody involved because it's going to help the country club, and we think in the long run it might help the town of Belleair," Bodley said.

Under the agreement, the country club would pay $100,000 to the town at the start of the lease, which has an initial term of 20 years.

For the first five years of the lease, the club would pay $10,000 annually. For the next five years the rent would increase to $10,500 per year. The rent would increase incrementally annually under the proposal.

The club would be responsible for all maintenance of the land and all improvements on it.

In addition, the club would agree to rebuild the entire seawall along the point from Waterfall Park to the northern part of the property that is owned by the club, said David Phillips, an attorney representing the club.

"Leasing this property would allow the town to avoid the not-too-distant expense of rebuilding the seawall along the southern portion of the point. We estimate the town's portion of the seawall, which is approximately 300 linear feet, will cost in excess of $100,000 to rebuild," he said.

That was a leading point of consideration for Mayor Gary Katica, who said the seawall was built in 1940 and could fall at any time.

"It's run by simple hydraulics. By simple hydraulics, I mean all you need is a low tide, heavy rain, and the seawall goes," he said.

"The town could lose up to $300,000, and that's why I see this as a win-win situation for the town of Belleair," Katica said, drawing heavy applause from the audience.

"I think the price is a bit low,'' Commissioner Tom Shelly said. "However, I think it would add value to our town."

The town has spent more than $30 million since 2008 on infrastructure projects and has more than $20 million in needed projects, Shelly said.

Commissioner Tom Kurey agreed.

"We certainly have a lot of obligations," he said.

He added that if a deal is approved, some of the lease funds could be used to maintain other parks and renovate Hallett Park.

Commissioner Karla Rettstatt said the proposal will be a great way to generate revenue. However, she added that the club's offer has to be better.

"It's just not enough money," she said.

Some residents spoke against the proposed lease at the meeting, including Nancy Hartshorne, who said the Hallett family donated the land to the town to be preserved.

"This completely contradicts the Halletts' intent, when they so generously donated this unique piece of property to us," she said.

The land was never meant to fall into private hands by sale or lease, Hartshorne said.

"This bluff, our bluff, is the only stretch of land for miles around that if viewed from the water is unmarred by the hand of man," she said.

Lissa Dexter, who is a member of the town's Park Board, said she hopes before the commission votes on the lease issue, the Park Board will have a chance to discuss it. The property in question, she said, could be included as part of the discussion on the restoration of Hallett Park.

Commissioners voted 4-0 to authorize Town Manager J.P. Murphy and Town Attorney David Ottinger to continue negotiations with the county club. An appraisal of the property also will be ordered. Commissioner Michael Wilkinson was absent.