Stephen Blume is sworn in as commissioner in Belleair Shore by City Clerk Mary Karayianes.
BELLEAIR SHORE – The addition of Stephen Blume to the Belleair Shore Town Commission during a May 20 regular meeting brings to four the number of members recently added or in new positions on the five-person commission.
New to the commission within the past year are Deborah Roseman and Jennifer Lindsay. Robert Schmidt, a commissioner since 1996, has moved up to be mayor, replacing longtime Mayor John Robertson. The town also has a new clerk, Mary Karayianes, formerly town clerk of Indian Shores.
Blume, the latest addition, is founder and president/CEO of Blume Mechanical, an air conditioning and plumbing firm. He has been in the HVAC business since 1976 and previously owned BCH Mechanical Inc., which he sold to TECO Energy in 2000.
Blume is currently renovating a “historic house” in Belleair Shore, built in 1966, where he will live with his wife and family. The first owner of the house was Robert Clayton, one of the town’s founders, according to Blume. Clayton was apparently a somewhat controversial figure, often getting into disputes with residents over issues. “There were lots of lawsuits when he was mayor,” said Commissioner Raymond Piscitelli.
Blume was sworn in at the May 20 meeting. He will take Mayor Schmidt’s seat on the commission and will serve the remainder of Schmidt’s term, which ends in March 2016.
Schmidt was out of town and did not attend the meeting, which was run by Deputy Mayor Roseman.
Code enforcement, maintenance issues addressed
Commissioner Lindsay was appointed as the town’s code enforcement officer. She has already been tackling issues ranging from aging signs at beach accesses to illegal property rentals and derelict properties.
The commission approved a recommendation by Lindsay for replacement of deteriorating signs at the town’s three beach accesses. Wording of the signs will inform persons entering the beach of the town’s rules and regulations, as well as the privacy of Belleair Shore’s beaches.
Unlike other local beach communities, the town’s residents own the beach in front of their homes up to the high tide line. Only town residents can park at the beach accesses, except for Belleair Beach residents, who can get a parking pass.
Piscitelli said beachgoers should consider themselves guests of the town.
“They need to respect our rights,” he said.
Property issues are proving more difficult to solve. Lindsay said several owners are habitually violating the town’s rental law, which specifies minimum one-month rentals, no more than three times a year. Piscitelli urged the commission to crack down on habitual offenders.
“Hit them as hard as we can,” he said of one.
“I agree,” said Roseman.
An unkempt property with a long history of noncompliance also was mentioned.
Town Attorney John Elias said the enforcement process “could be a lot harder than you think,” and often appears to favor the perpetrator’s rights over those of the victim.
Lindsay criticized the attorney for not sending out notice of violation letters as requested to the offenders.
“You’re taking too much time, and that’s not OK,” she told Elias.
Cases of repeat violators who do not comply are turned over to the special magistrate, who can levy heavy fines. The commission approved a contract for services with Thomas Trask to be the special magistrate. Trask serves as attorney for the cities of Dunedin, Madeira Beach, Belleair Bluffs and Oldsmar.
Though Elias said the town needs to proceed cautiously before handing cases over to the special magistrate “so you will be able to prove what is being alleged,” the commission members appeared ready to quickly move ahead with the enforcement process.
“Let’s just go forward and start cracking down (on the offenders),” said Piscitelli.
Elias was asked to send out the letters of violation without delay.