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Steps taken to demolish Belleview Biltmore
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BELLEAIR – The days of the Belleview Biltmore hotel could be numbered. Those numbers add up to 103, the days left until the Town Commission’s first November meeting, when it is possible they could approve all that is needed to turn the century-old hotel into townhouses and condos.

Town Manager Micah Maxwell confirmed that the various applications aimed at demolishing the hotel and replacing it with the new construction were received on July 18 and that’s when the clock began ticking.

Maxwell explained that in fact there were three applications received from the Ades brothers of Miami the owners of the hotel.

“First there was an application for a certificate of appropriateness which would be required under the Historic Preservation ordinance. Then a complete site plan outlining what they want to do with the property and finally a re-zoning application to bring their plans in line with the town code,” he said.

In addition to those three there is also a development agreement, which formalizes what the owners intend to do with the property.

From here it is a complicated procedure as each of the applications impacts the others. Neither the site plan nor the rezoning can happen without the certificate of appropriateness being approved.

“Even then the commissioners could decide to approve the certificate and deny the others,” said Maxwell.

What complicates matters even further is the timeline of all this and why it will take until November to happen.

First of all the town’s planning Consultant Dave Healey and other experts have 15 days to go over the applications to make sure they are complete and correct. Once that is complete then copies of the applications are given to the mayor and commissioners for their perusal in advance of various meetings, which will be called, to deal with the issue. Again, time is involved.

The Historic Preservation Board has to have a public meeting to review the documents. That can’t happen until 10 days after the final approval by Healey.

Then the Planning and Zoning Board has to have a similar meeting, but 20 days’ notice is required for that.

Another complication: because the applications include an economic hardship claim by the owners, the Historic Preservation Board has to deal with that except this time 30 days notice is required for the meeting.

An economic hardship claim can relate to the owners not being able to get a fair return on their investment. All that will become clear once the documents are made public after the 15-day review.

Both the Historic Preservation Board and the Planning and Zoning Board meetings are expected sometime in September.

Maxwell said the first time the documents will be out for discussion at a commission meeting after the two boards have a look at it will be October when first reading of the ordinances involved could potentially be held.

“By the November meeting there will be second reading on the rezoning plan,” he said. “The site plan and the special certificate are one time votes only.”

All that leads to a demolition permit which hasn’t been applied for yet. Maxwell said while nothing can happen without the demo permit, that can’t be granted without approval of the other three applications.

“The demo permit can be applied for once the Special Certificate is approved,” he said. “The commission could delay dealing with that application but if they don’t do that, then the demo permit application could happen the day after everything else is approved.”

Once everything is approved the Ades brothers will then be in a position to sell the property. Developer Mike Cheezum of JMC Communities has an offer on the table and has made his plans for now for a mixed-use development. However, he has said that he doesn’t intend to close the deal until all the permits have been approved and he can begin demolition and construction.

Until then there may be some lively discussion over the issue at commission meetings. In the past preservationists, those who want to save the hotel, have packed the Town Hall and have spoken for hours on the subject. Mayor Gary Katica expects more of the same.

“I expect the same people that have been coming to the meetings to try to restore the hotel will certainly attend the meetings,” he said. “I’m just looking for the light at the end of the tunnel.”

That light has to do with money that Katica said the town has lost since the hotel has been closed.

“We’re doing our budget again this year and we start at minus $800,000 or so going into the 6th year. That puts it in the $4 million range,” he said. “We have a millage rate of as little over 6 and it should be 4 or under. So whatever will be, will be.”
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