Editor: We urge residents to please attend the Jan. 21 Commission meeting in Belleair at 6:30 p.m. and encourage officials to vote no on the RM-10 zoning change.
This no vote will send a clear message to the hotel owners that the hotel must be saved and that the commission will continue to enforce the preservation ordinance until a buyer is found who will restore the Belleview Biltmore Hotel.
The only place in Belleair where the new R-10 zoning classification would serve any useful purpose would be on the property where the Belleview Biltmore currently sits. Therefore, to pretend that the added classification doesnít promote the demolition of the Belleview Biltmore and the rezoning of the property is preposterous. The new classification would send a clear message to the current owners that the Town is willing to allow the hotel to be demolished and for the property to be rezoned and developed. It increases the value to the property as land that can be developed and provides an incentive to the owners to pursue demolition of the hotel rather than selling the historic hotel for less profit.
When the same owners of the hotel property threatened to sell the golf course property to developers for the construction of town homes, town officials sprang to the defense of town residents who own property surrounding the golf course by actually buying the golf course and classifying it as a green space in perpetuity.
The reasons the commission gave for stopping the developers was that those Belleair residents who purchased homes on the golf course would lose their view, their quality of life and their property values might decrease.
Even though it was a huge cost and a big financial risk for our town, it was deemed necessary to protect the citizens who owned properties surrounding the course. It was the right thing to do because the job of town government is to protect the welfare of residents, even at great cost to the town.
Those who own property surrounding the Belleview Biltmore deserve the same consideration of their view, quality of life and property values.
The Belleview Biltmore used to provide residents with restaurants, a spa, ballrooms, meeting rooms, historic tours and hotel rooms for their out-of-town guests while generating good income for the town. If restored, it could do so again.
If the commission stands firm and lets the current owner know that their plans to destroy the hotel and develop the property will never bear fruit, then they would be more willing to negotiate a fair purchase price with those who want to restore the hotel rather than seeking top-dollar for the property.
The commission should be doing everything possible to prevent the developers from changing the entire landscape and culture of the area by demolishing the hotel and building condos and town homes that would absolutely destroy the view, the quality of life and decrease the property values of those who live near the hotel as well as many others who cherish the Belleview Biltmore Hotel. Incorporating a new R-10 zoning classification sends the opposite message. It says we donít care about protecting the welfare of those residents who own property adjacent to the hotel.
The R-10 classification isnít different enough from the existing R-15 classification to create completely different types or sizes of residences than currently exist in Belleair. Therefore, construction of new condos and townhomes would almost certainly decrease the property values of existing condos by creating a surplus of new and comparable housing in the immediate vicinity.
The current owners have done everything in their power to destroy the historic icon that is responsible for the town of Belleairís existence. We should do nothing to help these people profit from their despicable behavior.
Instead, we should send them a strong message that we will do what it takes to protect Belleairís heritage and the property values of Belleair citizens, even if it costs the town substantial sums in lost income while waiting for them to sell the hotel at a fair price to those who would restore the hotel.
Just like when Belleair decided to buy the golf course from the current owners to protect the property values of our residents and the heritage of our town, refusing to change our land use code to incorporate the new R-10 zoning classification would protect the property values of residents and would force the owners to sell the hotel for a reasonable amount.
You can contact www.savethebiltmore.com†for fliers to print and hand out, our one-minute email campaign to the commissioners and mayor with their addresses and for more information. Feel free to sign up for our free email newsletter also.
Diane Hein President, Save the Biltmore Preservationists Belleair