BELLEAIR – If your plans following Super Bowl 2009 in Tampa include a stay at the Belleview Biltmore, you better make reservations now.
The resort and spa will stop taking reservations at the end of May 2009 to facilitate its extensive restoration, according to officials representing Legg Mason Real Estate Investors, who made the announcement before a meeting of the Belleair code enforcement board Tuesday evening.
Attorney Tom Reynolds representing LMREI, which has owned the Biltmore just four months, was on hand to plead his client’s case to set aside the findings that the property was in non-compliance with several local building codes, the worst being the state of disrepair of the famous gabled green roof.
Sworn witnesses in attendance for Tuesday’s hearing were head architect for the project, Richard Heisenbottle of Coral Gables, Ron Harn of Skanska Construction, Martin Smith, managing director and vice president of the Belleview Biltmore, and town building official Fred Hawes.
Querying Hawes regarding the current condition of the roof, town attorney David Ottinger elicited the building inspector’s conclusion that following two inspections, one this past summer and a second on Tuesday, “The roof is not in compliance.”
Hawes referenced missing shingles, torn and missing non-certified fabric covering and exposed wood.
The board had previously granted the owners 120 days or until the end of November to bring the roof up to code or face fines of $250 a day until the order was satisfied.
Reynolds et al presented testimony, including that of Heisenbottle and Harn, that the physical repair of the roof although necessary was not possible in the time frame set by the board. Heisenbottle referred to the antiquity of the structure, which dates from the late 1800s, when he told the board that some portions of the roof had “layer upon layer upon layer upon layer of shingles” while other areas had no sheathing whatsoever. He said the restoration team needed at least six months just to prepare the application.
Harn then gave expert testimony based on his lifelong career as a roofing contractor that the process intended to fully restore the roof to its original appearance and at the same time adhere to modern codes would require 16 months and cost $4.5 million. The entire building, he said, would have to be “scaffolded” with the removal alone requiring four months followed by five months of reconstruction of the substructure, including the application of hurricane clips and strapping. That would be followed by an additional seven months to resurface the new structure.
Harn and Heisenbottle told the board that they were currently accessing a cosmetic, colored foam application that would disguise the poor condition of the roof giving the owners time to properly plan and execute a new roof, which Heisenbottle said, “Comes with a 50-year guarantee. We won’t be back here again.”
After some brief confusion regarding the target completion date, the board voted unanimously to amend their previous compliance order and grant Legg Mason until Nov. 1, 2009 to bring the roof up to code with the proviso that the construction management team returns Nov. 1, 2008 with a progress report.
Heisenbottle estimated that the fines, had they begun this week, would have resulted in an additional $100,000 to $150,000 or about .15 percent of the approximately $100 million price tag LMREI has predicted it will spend on the restoration project, now slated for completion by November 2010.