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Hotel preservationists should heed common sense
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Opinions are like noses, we all have one. However, to vehemently espouse preserving the Belleview Biltmore hotel without the facts is divisive and causing our town of Belleair to choose sides.

You have lost sight of the fact that the town does not own the hotel. It is a private enterprise and not part of the town’s Parks and Recreation Department. Your anger and frustration is misdirected. Rather than chide the commission you should be chiding Kawa, Richard Heisenbottle, R.C. Johnson and D. Hein, all consummate prevaricators. They have been dangling the carrot in front of you and twisting the facts.

Some of you have suggested the commissioners insist the present owners sell only to those who will restore the hotel. Can you imagine telling you whom you can market your home to? Have you never heard of private property rights?

Some are jumping the gun and drawing conclusions without knowing the facts, i.e. “Cheezem’s cheesy cookie cutter condo clusters.” If you would wait, like you’re asking us to wait, you’d hear Mr. Cheezem’s plan rather than using your clever alliteration, which is counterproductive. We have waited patiently for five years for Heisenbottle to close the deal. How much longer can we wait?

We have heard you, many from out of town, pound on the podium calling the hotel the heart and soul of Belleair. If that be the case, the town should be dead, as the hotel has been shuttered since January 2009. Your untruths and inaccuracies coupled with baseless accusations border on slander. You’re noisy, fact-baiting and are often irrational.

Here’s a partial list of your preposterous, inaccurate statements: Shovel ready project scheduled to start Jan. of 2013; economic feasibility has been validated by financers who will fund it; there are legitimate groups making offers to buy and restore; give Heisenbottle more time, there are more buyers in the wings; construction of townhomes and condos would almost certainly decrease the property values of existing condos; the hotel is in good condition and can be restored.

As late as February Heisenbottle said, “I have a solid commitment, we’re very close to a deal.” These investors with the funds are as elusive as Ms. Hein. I’ve asked numerous people, including reporters, if they’ve ever set eyes on this woman who has a propensity for stirring up the pot with misleading statements. They all deny having met her.

Not so for Ms. R.C. Johnson, who is a regular at town meetings with her charts and documents. Johnson continues to question the credentials of our town attorney and our city planner. I ask where are her credentials and those of her minions who shout, accuse and disrupt, insisting the hotel can be restored? You are waiting for a miracle that is not coming, grasping at straws, and dreaming of preservation that is too expensive to come true.

Commissioner Stephen Fowler, an avowed preservationist, said, “I’m saying slow down, with the economy recovering, I’m firmly convinced that it’s doable.” This from a man who admits to not being a money kind of guy.

You have been comparing the Belleview Biltmore Hotel to the Don CeSar and the Vinoy, which is like comparing a funeral to a wedding; the Don being on the beach and the Vinoy being in the heart of a vibrant city on the waterfront.

Maybe plans to renovate the hotel were too complicated and grandiose. There was never a Plan B suggested. We now have one being presented by Mike Cheezem, which entails a mixed-use approach. Let’s listen to his plan and listen with our heads and not our hearts.

It appears that common sense may be prevailing and preserving the hotel may no longer be a viable option.

So please step away from the podium, cease and desist writing vitriolic accusatory letters and emails and let capitalism work.

Lil Cromer
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