The future of the Belleview-Biltmore Hotel property will likely include mixed-use zoning. The ordinance passed first reading at the Belleair Commission meeting.
BELLEAIR – By a unanimous vote Belleair Commissioners approved the introduction of mixed-use zoning for the Belleview-Biltmore Hotel property. The zoning, looked upon by preservationists as yet another step toward demolition of the hotel, would allow a developer to include the building of a hotel/Inn on the property in addition to residential units.
The commission meeting May 20 was relatively quiet and very quick in comparison to past meetings that dealt with any issue involving the hotel property. The entire meeting took less than 45 minutes and that included dealing with a number of other items on the agenda.
However, the attention of the handful of residents at the meeting was centered on the mixed-use proposal as presented by planning consultant Dave Healey.
“This is a development tool with potential,” he said. “It is designed to be a new category to encourage the building of a hotel along with residential units which would recognize the historical component of the Belleview-Biltmore Hotel.”
Healey said the historical piece of the proposed zoning plan would be important to the entire concept.
“It would give historical recognition to the use of the property and the architectural style of the buildings,” he said. “It would encompass the economic, social and cultural importance and would only be permitted if all the historical preservation conditions are met.”
Healey noted that before the mixed use zoning would be granted the developer would have to meet a number of requirements, including entering into a development agreement with the town.
“In addition two public hearings would have to take place and the development agreement would be binding on both sides so everybody knows what the stipulations are,” he said.
Commissioner Stephen Fowler, who has voted against any zoning change proposed for the property in the past, asked Healey if in the combined hotel/residential property there could be a situation where residents could use some of the amenities of the hotel such as concierge and valet service. Healey said that it could.
Fowler also wanted to make sure that any retail activity at the hotel would only be accessible through the hotel and not from the outside. And he wondered if the property would be golf cart friendly. Healey said he would make sure the accessibility issue would be addressed as well as the golf cart issue.
Then it was on to public comments, which on occasion in the past, have taken up to three hours. This time only four people spoke.
First up was Jim White the president of the RPD Homeowners Association. The RPD is the development that surrounds the hotel.
White said after hearing yet another presentation by developer Mike Cheezem and Town Manager Micah Maxwell and Healey this past week, his association continued to be in favor of the project.
“After the presentations our board voted unanimously to support the mixed use zoning,” he said. “We urge the town to pass the ordinance and put mixed-use in place.”
Jim Betts, an RPD resident, was on the other side of the issue.
“I stand here in bewilderment,” he said. “Here we are in Belleair, a town built around the hotel, a town whose comprehensive plan says we should preserve the hotel, a town whose sworn duty is to do so, and we’re talking about not saving the hotel.”
Betts wondered who was benefitting from all this.
“We have a developer who says he has abandoned all attempts at saving the hotel,” he said. “Whose interests are we pursuing; it doesn’t seem to me to be the town’s.”
Resident LaVonne Johnson, who has spoken many times in favor of preserving the hotel, again spoke out against any change.”
“I want you all to keep your promises to protect and preserve the Belleview-Biltmore Hotel,” she said. “Mixed zoning would not be part of your protection. Vote no on mixed zoning.”
Then the mayor and every commissioner, including Fowler, voted to approve first reading of the ordinance, which would allow mixed use on the hotel property.
Board appointments approved
Commissioners approved appointments to the various boards in the community. The appointments were required because several terms had expired.
Lil Cromer and Buzz Cooper were reappointed to the Building Board of Adjustment and Appeals.
Tom Olson, Tom Kurey and John Prevas were reappointed to the Finance Board.
On the Historic Preservation Board Andrea Ayers Layman decided not to seek re-appointment so commissioners voted to have Alex Chamberlain replace her. They also voted to re-appoint Dave Hutcheson and Don White to the board.
John Hail and Chis Foley were reappointed to the Infrastructure Board.
Paul Cozzie, Kathy Gaston and Amy Welch were reappointed to the Park and Tree Board.
Gloria Burton, Peter Marich and Bonnie Sue Brandvik were reappointed to the Planning and Zoning Board.
Molly Fowler, Skip Katz, Patricia Ryan and Cheryl Franzese were reappointed to the Recreation Board.
All the new and reappointed members of the Boards will serve a two-year term. Next year the remaining members of the boards will have their terms expire.