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Old home headed for demolition
Belleair commissioners remove house from town’s list of historic places
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The house at 540 Palmetto Road in Belleair is no longer on the town’s historic list and is to be demolished.
BELLEAIR – After years of neglect the house at 540 Palmetto Road in Belleair is headed for demolition. Commissioners unanimously agreed to remove the house from the town’s list of historic places to allow the demolition to take place.

The house is actually owned by the Bank of America but is under contract to be sold to Belleair resident Patricia Higgins. She told the commissioners at their regular meeting on Tuesday, July 16, that the house, which had been vacant for at least six years, was uninhabitable.

“I had a builder walk through it and he reported that it was not safe and it was not code compliant,” she said. “It is in extremely poor condition through neglect and the changes various owners made to it over the years. There is water and termite damage, there is evidence of mold and mildew and considerable vandalism has taken place over the years.”

Higgins said there is very little historical value left in the house, which was built in the early 1900s.

“Most of the historical integrity has been removed,” she said. “There are three fireplaces that are surrounded by tile which I’d like to save. I’m asking anyone who wants to remove the tile and use it and keep it in Belleair to come forward and they can have it.”

Commissioner Kevin Piccarreto, the Commission’s representative on the Historic Preservation Board, said the board unanimously approved Higgins’ request.

Commissioners followed suit and unanimously approved the request to remove the house from the historic list and to allow demolition.

But the issue didn’t end there. There was the matter of nearly $39,000 in fines against the property, which had to be settled. The town holds a lien against the property and until it is satisfied the sale of the property could not be completed. Higgins told the commission that she could not purchase the house until the liens were wiped out.

Tampa attorney Fred Pirone asked the commissioners to reduce the amount of the fines to just over $17,000.

When the bank foreclosed on the property the previous owner had run up fines of more than $15,000, Pirone said.

“We’re asking that you wipe those fines off the books. They happened before the bank took control of the property,” he said.

The fines were levied at $150 a day because of the unkempt state of the property. Pirone said as quickly as possible the bank fixed the issues.

“So we weren’t being lazy or slow or not caring; we moved as quickly as the courts allowed us to move,” he said.

Piccarreto said that this was the first time that anyone came before the commission with a request to have fines reduced yet was willing to accept responsibility for more than half the owed amount.

Mayor Gary Katica gave a hint as to his feelings when he asked, “Why should the town get shorted on this?”

In the end the commissioners voted unanimously to deny the request to lessen the fine amount. Pirone said the decision would not likely affect the sale of the property but it might delay it somewhat.

Higgins said once the sale is complete and the house demolished she plans to build a new home on the property.

Homeowners: Marina won’t pay

The RPD Homeowners Association and the neighboring Seaside Marina are in a dispute over fees. Homeowners President Jim White told the commissioners that the marina isn’t paying its share of the fees needed to pay for the roads and the guards inside the gated community.

“We negotiated with them but their representative, John Prevas, told us that 14 of the people who own slips are members of the golf club and four are residents of the RPD,” he said. “They say that those people are already paying their share through their condo fees or through the fees paid by the golf club.”

White asked the commissioners to get involved in the issue.

“We could take legal action but that will run up high legal fees. If the town could mediate this dispute we could avoid those costs and perhaps reach a resolution.”

Commissioners did not comment on White’s request.

Golf club financial report

There was good news and bad news about the Belleview Biltmore Golf Club from General Manager John Danehy. The good news was that the town-owned club did not lose as much money as predicted in June.

“We had budgeted a loss of $39,000 in June,” he said. “We only had a loss of $8,000 so in effect we gained $31,000 in our budget.”

The bad news was July.

“It rained practically every day making it necessary to have golf cart path only. Many days we just didn’t operate at all. I don’t have any numbers yet but this is July 15th and I can tell you we’re headed for a loss this month for sure,” he said.

Danehy represents Green Golf Partners, who are operating the club for the town. He indicated that his company would like to continue the relationship and Assistant Town Manager J.P. Murphy indicated that the town administration will soon ask the commission to extend the partnership with Green Golf for another six weeks.

The town still hasn’t decided whether to hold onto the property, lease it or sell it.

Hunter Memorial Park

Efforts to remake Hunter Memorial Park are on schedule. Karla Rettstatt, head of the Belleair Community Foundation, told the commissioners that the fundraising effort to pay for the refurbishing of the park and the building of a fountain to honor veterans is coming along nicely.

“We have raised $265,000 so far and we feel we’ll need $300,000 to do the job,” she said. “We’re getting ready to put the project out to bid and we hope that money is right on the number.”

Rettstatt said they will put the project out to bid in about 30 days and it will be another 30 days after that when they begin construction.

“Our goal is to have it finished on November 9th, Veterans week. That might be stretching it a bit but we’re going to try,” she said.

Rettstatt said the work on the park is just the beginning of several projects her organization has planned for the community.

July is recreation month

July is being recognized as parks and recreation month in Belleair. A formal proclamation, signed by Mayor Gary Katica, acknowledged the importance of recreation to the community.

“Our parks and recreation are vitally important to establishing and maintaining the quality of life in our communities, ensuring the health of all citizens.”

On more than one occasion Belleair commissioners have referred to the town’s Parks and Recreation Department and its community center as the lifeblood of the community.

The proclamation was presented to Commissioners Tom Shelly and Michael Wilkinson, who are the commission’s representatives on the Parks Board and the Rec Board.
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