The town of Belleair may soon own the Belleview Biltmore’s Pelican Golf course
BELLEAIR – Residents of Belleair may become the owners of a golf course.
Town officials are forming an agreement with the Ades brothers of Miami to purchase the Belleview Biltmore golf course, officially the Pelican Golf course, on Indian Rocks Road.
The deal was arranged on Thursday, Nov. 1, when Town Manager Micah Maxwell sat down with the Ades brothers in Miami.
The agreement still has to be ratified by the Town Commission. Commissioners gave Maxwell the go-ahead to make the agreement, during a private meeting on Oct. 30. Under Florida law the meeting could be held privately, or in the “shade,” because it dealt with litigation.
The Ades brothers had begun foreclosure proceedings on the three Biltmore properties to avoid having to pay more than $275,000 in fines accrued because of the deteriorating state of the hotel.
Those fines were at the crux of the deal to buy the golf course. Under the terms of the purchase and sale agreement the town will pay $3.5 million for the property. The town agrees to wipe out the $275,000 in fines and drop the liens against the Beach property and the golf course. The liens against the hotel property will remain.
For its part, the town gets the golf course and $50,000 in cash.
Maxwell said he has been thinking about the deal for some time.
“We’ve been trying to find a way to move forward with the entire issue,” he said. “I’ve been thinking about this for months now, but the commission wasn’t aware of it. As we moved through the negotiation on the liens, it became a strategy that provided us with some value. This way we get some value for the lien and we get to protect the golf course property.”
Maxwell said once the town gets control of the golf course it can pass an ordinance, which would prohibit, in perpetuity, any development on the property.
In recent months both Daniel Ades and his attorneys, on separate occasions, alluded to the fact that there was nothing to prohibit the owners of the golf course from developing it with townhouses or anything else. Even the prospective buyers of the hotel, led by Richard Heisenbottle, pointed out that the golf course property could be developed.
That fact has long been a thorn in the side of Belleair Mayor Gary Katica.
“We are one of the few towns in the entire state that derives its water from the ground,” he said. “That course represents 133 acres of grass and lakes. We have six huge wells and that is where we get our water from. I recently toured the property and it is beautiful with wildlife and everything. We have to protect it.”
Maxwell predicts that the Ades brothers will now drop their foreclosure proceedings.
“Under our agreement to purchase the property the liens, which will remain on the hotel, would become senior to the mortgage so they can’t threaten to foreclose again, it would mean nothing to us.”
It may mean something to the Belleview Biltmore Homeowners Association. They, too, have a lien against the hotel for $107,000. It is for money owed as part of the hotel’s contribution to the upkeep of the residential planned development property, mainly road maintenance. Jim White, the president of the homeowners group, says it is too early to tell how this latest development will affect them.
“We have been negotiating with them,” said White. “We have agreed to settle for $40,000 and a monthly payment of $2,000 from them for ongoing road maintenance. With this latest news we’ll have to consult our attorney to see what to do next.”
As for the golf course deal itself, White was pleased.
“I have felt all along that the prize was the Pelican Golf Course,” he said. “Breaking up the three properties makes sense for the town when you look at the big picture. It allows us to get the Pelican. However having the three properties together gave the town some leverage which it no longer has.”
The head of Friends of the Bellview Biltmore Preservation, Rae Claire Johnson, is adamantly against the deal.
“I hope they don’t go through with it,” she said. “The deal is a detriment to the hotel; they should give that money toward buying the hotel. This deal is not in the best interests of the town.”
Maxwell admitted there are various options open to the commission. “We could decide to close the golf course, lease it, sell it or operate it. But before we do anything we will make sure there will never be any development on the property. Keeping that an open space is real important to the town.”
He added that things wouldn’t change anytime soon.
“At this point I don’t see any service interruptions because we have a lot of decisions to make,” he said. “Once the deal is accepted by the commission we will have 75 days to go over the books and study exactly what we will need to do. We have the ability to cancel the deal at any time. The brothers do not.”
Mayor Katica made it clear how he felt about the deal and the future.
“We have to get control of our town because we cannot go through this emotion every couple of years when a developer comes in and talks about townhouses. Doing that to this property would be obscene. We have to get control of our town,” Katica said.
Revision: Corrected the name of the organization which is headed by Rae Claire Johnson.