The Belleview Biltmore Hotel could be demolished in 120 days according to owners representative.
BELLEAIR – It is possible that if demolition of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel ever gets underway it could be gone in 90 days.
Mayor Gary Katica said at the Belleair Commission meeting Oct. 1 he learned that at a recent homeowners meeting. At the meeting a hotel representative indicated that if demolition takes place it could be complete in as little as 90 days and perhaps no more than 120 days.
Katica attended the monthly meeting of the Belleview Biltmore Homes Association recently where the exchange with the hotel representative took place.
Jim White, the president of the Homes Association, said Bob Smithers, representing the Ades brothers owners of the property, attended the meeting. Smithers was there because the hotel, which is now paying its fair share of condominium costs, was eligible as a member.
White recalled the exchange between Katica and Smithers.
“The mayor told us that because the hotel is closed down it is costing the town $800,000 a year,” he said. “He also said if the hotel were redeveloped then it could be opened in three years and that would be good for the town with that new tax revenue rolling in.”
He recalled that Katica remarked that another type of development on the property would take longer, and that there has been no movement on the property for some time.
White said it was then Smithers stood up to speak.
“He was very polite and said it wasn’t exactly true that nothing is going on,” he said. “He told us that his people have been talking to the town staff about permitting and demolition and zoning and whatever else they need to do to move forward. He said they were looking at a development of about 150 units on the hotel property. It would be a combination of condos and town houses with an average selling price of $500,000.”
It was then the mayor asked about the time frame for demolition.
“He told me it would take about 90 days to clear the property, then later he amended it to 120 days,” said Katica. “I wonder about that; there are so many things involved in demolishing a structure of that size, the asbestos is just one example.”
Katica told the commission meeting that he has heard it all before.
“I’m not experienced at this. When they throw those numbers at us what can I say?” I kept asking him when will there be boots on the ground and he had a hard time giving me an answer to that.”
The mayor said as far as he is concerned nothing is happening.
“Nothing has come before this commission. They may have been talking to our various departments but not the commission,” he said. “And we haven’t heard from the Heisenbottle people in over a year.”
Miami architect Richard Heisenbottle had indicated he was heading a group prepared to buy and preserve the hotel but failed to come up with the money for the sale.
Katica said the $800,000 in lost tax revenue translates to about $400 a year for every household in Belleair.
“When you put money on it like that people will take notice and they will think about it,” he said.
White and the homeowners he represents want to see something happen sooner than later.
“People have been suffering because of declining property values here in the RPD,” he said. “My values have dropped by 50 percent. I can’t blame it all on the hotel, the economy is part of it as well.”
The Residential Planned Development refers to the condos and homes that are built around the hotel. Residents have been complaining that the deterioration of the hotel property has had a negative effect on their property values.
The recent meeting did little to calm skeptical residents, White said.
“I think we’re all from Missouri, show us,” he said. “We all heard about lots of development things over the years. The residents want something to happen, something positive to happen.”
White said there has been an encouraging note to all this.
“Town Manager Micah Maxwell has indicated that he is prepared to go to each building in our development and get our views on what we would like to see built on the hotel property,” he said. “To me that means that the town clearly wants us to be part of anything that is going to happen there and that is a real positive.”
White hopes those visits can happen after most of the snowbirds come back for the winter.
Insurance offer questioned
Commissioner Stephen Fowler wanted to know if a letter he received from the American Water Resources of Florida insurance company had any practical value.
The letter, from the company’s head office in Voorhees, N.J., was sent to all the Belleair commissioners and outlined the company’s plan to cover homeowners in case of leaks in their water lines.
The company is looking for Belleair to partner with them in informing homeowners of the risks and costs of water line leakage. Repairs it said could run into the thousands of dollars. It suggests there would be a licensing fee paid to the town if an agreement was formed.
Police Chief Tom Edwards said he was aware of the situation and was investigating it.
“What they are doing is not illegal in any way,” he said. “But people have to understand they are only offering to cover that part of the water line from the meter to the shutoff valve outside the house. They do not cover any interior lines. We know outside repairs can be done in some cases for as little as $200.”
The chief said residents should know that they may be paying for too much insurance in this case.