As one option, Belleair commissioners are considering naming the clubhouse at the Belleview Biltmore Golf Club after the late John Osborne who left millions of dollars to the town.
BELLEAIR – Discussion of the potential new zoning designation as it relates to the Belleview Biltmore property again dominated the discussion at the Belleair Commission meeting on March 4.
The zoning designation RM-10 would allow any developer to build 10 units per acre on the land. The previous designation RM-15 was considered inappropriate for the property.
Several weeks ago, based on a motion by Commission Stephen Fowler, the commission voted 3-2 to shelve any discussion of the zoning for six months. That was considered a hindrance to developer Mike Cheezem, who intends to buy and develop the property.
Two weeks ago the commissioners changed their minds and agreed to reconsider the designation at their meeting on March 25. The discussion at the most recent meeting was to refresh their memories about RM-10.
In addition to allowing 10 units per acre the new designation would also insist that a minimum of 5 acres would come into play, and the minimum size of a unit would be 1,200 square feet with the average square footage being 1,800 square feet.
The contentious part of RM-10 is the loosening of the height restriction. Buildings as high as 80 feet would be allowed as long as the average height of the project would be 48 feet. Other conditions would have to be met regarding parking and setbacks. Those height restrictions are what bothered Commissioner Stephen Fowler.
“I have some heartburn with the scale of any project under this proposal,” he said. “I’m worried about what could happen. I feel we should limit the maximum height to 68 feet.”
When Fowler commented that the RM-10 as written would do a disservice to the residents of the RPD, Mayor Gary Katica asked him just what he meant by a disservice.
“The 80 feet is much higher than the hotel is today,” he said. “It would be inappropriate to the rest of the buildings that are there today.”
Commissioner Kevin Piccarreto asked how many 80-foot buildings could potentially be built on the property under the rules. Consultant David Healey said it was difficult to tell.
“It depends on the floor place and just how many buildings of varying heights would be built to maintain the average,” he said.
Piccarreto said that when he attended an RPD meeting recently he got the impression that the residents wanted more green space.
“They were unanimous in wanting green space and the higher buildings would give them that,” he said.
Fowler ended the discussion by saying he was in favor of changing the minimum size of any unit from 1,200 to 1,500 square feet and making the average 2,400 square feet instead of 1,800.
Building inspections to change
Until recently Belleair conducted its own building inspections, but that changed when Building Official Fred Hawes retired last April. Since then the town has been using Pinellas County building inspection services, also while checking to see if a new full-time building official would be required. It turns out it is not.
Stephan Massol, a management analyst for the town, unveiled some figures that convinced the Commissioners to change the way they do business.
Massol told the commissioners that a private company could be hired to provide building inspection services three days a week for $96,000 a year. That is compared with the services they had been getting from Pinellas County, which cost $110,000, or hiring a new building official at $124,000.
Commissioner Stephen Fowler wanted to make sure that the two days a week that weren’t covered weren’t Monday and Friday.
“We’re going to get some push-back from the construction industry,” he said. “If they have to wait a day to get inspections then it is going to cause a 40 percent delay in their projects. It is a burden on the construction industry. I would suggest asking for five hours a day, five days a week, which is only one hour more than is being proposed.”
Massol said he could explore that option but noted one company indicated they would only work for 8 hours a day, nothing less.
Town Manager Micah Maxwell said he didn’t think there would be a problem.
“After some initial pain I think the contractors will get used to it,” he said. “There is always the option that we could provide them inspections whenever they want, but they would have to pay for it.”
In the end the commissioners agreed that hiring a private company to do the inspections was the way to go.
A tree or a bush?
As work is due to begin transforming Hunter Park into Hunter Memorial Park and the planned fountain and structure to honor veterans, the idea that a particular tree in the park will have to be removed has raised the ire of at least one Belleair resident.
Nancy Hartshorne appeared before the commission and made a plea to save the rather large Podocarous tree in one corner of the park. The tree, once thought to be a shrub, is not native to Florida. In fact it grows mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, in Africa, Australia and New Zealand and parts of Asia. It can grow higher than 75 feet.
Hartshorne said the tree should not be destroyed.
“Not only do I like the tree,” she said, “but aesthetically it serves an important purpose. It secures the third point in the triangle that forms the park with the memorial to our veterans on one point and the magnificent live oak on the second point.
She asked the commissioners to take another look at allowing the tree to be removed.
“I ask you to take a long, slow look at this tree. Appreciate how many years it has grown with this town, prune it up, show some of that beautiful bark, give it some tender loving care and let it be.”
Resident Laura Lesieur agreed with Hartshorne and said she knows someone who will pay to have the tree pruned.
“I know a donor who will pay the cost of having that tree trimmed and expose that trunk which is very interesting looking,” she said. “If after that it doesn’t make it then we’ll have it removed and none of it will cost the town a cent.”
No decision on the fate of the tree was made at the meeting.
Osborne to be honored
Philanthropist John Osborne will be honored by the town, just how, hasn’t been decided yet.
Osborne, a longtime resident of Belleair, died two years ago and left the town nearly $4 million in his will. The money allowed the town to purchase the Belleview Biltmore Golf club.
For some time commissioners had been talking about honoring Osborne in some way and Maxwell brought forth some suggestions at the meeting.
They included naming the golf course clubhouse after him, naming a park after him, naming a town building after him, naming a street after him or naming a sports field after him.
After some discussion the commissioners seemed to reach a consensus on naming the east field in the recreation complex after him. Maxwell appeared to like that decision. However, he said, with planned changes to the field and nearby streets and parking lots there could be major changes in the area. He promised that at a meeting in April that a better-informed decision could be made as to what should be named after Osborne.