BELLEAIR – In sharp contrast to most Belleair Commission meetings which, when the Belleview Biltmore Hotel is on the agenda, can last for hours, the meeting on May 6 was over in 45 minutes.
That is not to say the hotel wasn’t mentioned, it was briefly in a report by the fire marshal.
Commissioner Tom Shelly wanted to know how secure the hotel was in terms of fire protection. Largo Fire Marshall Tim Wedin said the hotel seems to be secure for the time being.
“It is an unoccupied structure so we have to make sure the sprinkler system is working and it is,” he said. “We also know the fire alarms are working. They alert us to whether the sprinklers and smoke detectors are in operation so they continue to monitor the situation.”
Wedin did caution that things could change at the structure.
“As the property deteriorates so does the equipment and the smoke detectors may go soon,” he said.
Shelly then asked if the Fire Department inspected the hotel on a monthly basis. Wedin said no.
“As an unoccupied structure we consider it not inspectable,” he said. “There is no life safety involved. It is important to keep vagrants out of the place.”
Wedin was at the meeting with Largo Fire Chief Shelby Willis and other fire department heads as they presented their quarterly report to the commissioners. Mayor Gary Katica remarked that in all his time as mayor it was the most detailed report he had ever heard from the Fire Department. Belleair’s fire protection is provided by the Largo Fire Department.
Tree to go
Belleair resident Nancy Hartshorne told commissioners she has given up the fight to save the Podocarpus tree, which is slated to be removed from Hunter Memorial Park. Hartshorne spearheaded the fight to save the tree but admitted it was time to accept the inevitable.
“I’m not going to stand here and beat a dead horse,” she said. “The dead horse is the Podocarpus tree in Hunter Park and I have to still ask why a hunk of concrete is better than that old tree.”
Hartshorne said she was aware that the Park and Tree Board voted to allow the tree to be removed and said their opposition to her effort made it clear she wasn’t going to win.
“As the old song goes, you have to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em. It looks like I just don’t have a winning hand,” she said.
Later in the meeting Commissioner Stephen Fowler wondered why the plans for the park couldn’t be altered to allow the tree to be saved. Commissioner Shelly said it was more than just making room for parking spaces.
“An arborist reported that the tree was nearing the end of its natural life and it wouldn’t survive a major trimming or any trauma to the root ball,” he said.
Hartshorne said she was aware of that report but said there was never an intention to drastically trim the tree, just cut it back so it didn’t impede pedestrians.
“I want you to know that without the tree there is no shade in the area and it will be pretty hot at whatever events are held there in the summertime,” she said.
No further action will be taken and the tree will be removed as work to transform the park into a memorial for veterans gets underway, likely this summer. Town Manager Micah Maxwell reported that he has received a check for $250,000 from the Belleair Community Foundation for the work. The foundation, headed by former Commissioner Karla Rettstatt, has pledged to pay for remodeling the park and to support the maintenance of the facility in the years ahead.
Yard maintenance ordinance approved
Commissioners unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance requiring residents to keep their plants and trees in a safe and orderly manner. Police Chief Tom Edwards presented the ordinance and said it was needed for safety reasons.
“We’ve had a couple of accidents in the past year with trucks hitting overhead limbs,” he said. “This ordinance addresses this particular problem.”
Among the regulations are rules that require fire hydrants have a 3-foot clearance all around, free of vegetation, so firefighters can access them. As well shrubs that may impede the vision can’t be planted at intersections and all vegetation must be cut back and trimmed at the property line or curb.
Edwards said residents with unkempt property will be served a notice that if they don’t comply with the regulations the town will come and do the job and they will be charged with the cost.
“They will have 10 days to comply, if not we can move in. The old regulations made us wait another two weeks before we acted, not anymore,” he said.
Town clerk honored
The mayor issued a proclamation honoring Town Clerk Donna Carlin and declaring the week municipal clerks week.
The proclamation noted that the office of the town clerk is the oldest among public servants and the office provides the link between the citizens, the elected officials and other agencies of government.
The proclamation states in part: “Municipal clerks have pledged to be ever mindful of their neutrality and impartiality rendering equal service to all.”
The Mayor and Commissioners then presented the proclamation to Carlin.