The town of Belleair is working on a deal to buy the Belleair Biltmore Golf Club, aka Pelican Golf Club.
BELLEAIR – It was unanimous; the Belleair Commission approved plans to purchase the Pelican Golf Course, aka the Belleview Biltmore Golf Club, on Indian Rocks Road.
The 5-0 vote came after limited discussion at the Nov. 7 commission meeting.
Earlier, Town Manager Micah Maxwell, with the commission’s blessing, worked out a deal with the Ades brothers, the owners of the golf course. They also are owners of the Belleview Biltmore hotel and Sand Key beach property, the Cabana Grill and Bar and restaurant.
Maxwell said the $3.5 million purchase price included the golf course, the clubhouse, all other buildings and all the contents of those buildings.
The purpose of buying the course is to protect it from development. The current owners and the prospective owners had said development of the golf course was not something they could ignore.
Mayor Gary Katica was the first to speak in support of the purchase.
“This is a bold move,” he said. “We have to get control of our town and this is a sure way to do that. I can remember a developer who came in here and wanted to develop the golf course and said he’ll put a heart in this town. Well, this town already has a heart.”
Several people in the audience weighed in on the subject. Jim White, the president of the Belleview Biltmore Homeowners Association, supported the move.
“I totally agree that we have to take control of the town,” he said. “I feel it is important that it stay as a golf course. But we in the RPD don’t want to be left out in the cold. Any support we can get from the town would be appreciated.”
White’s comments related to the contention that the owners of the Biltmore owe the Homeowners several thousand dollars as their share of upkeep as part of the gated RPD property.
Another RPD resident, Tom DuPont, agreed with the idea of buying the golf course.
“I agree 100 percent that it is in the best interests of the town to take control of that land,” he said. “We don’t want to stand in the way of that transaction. But the owners have shown a complete disregard for the community. We residents are paying our fair share and we need assurance that they will pay their share and the RPD will get its fair share. We stand with you and your efforts.”
Resident Tom Kurry called it a good deal.
“I’m pleased that we will be able to protect our green space, it is a strong move to control our own destiny,” he said. “I want to say well done to Micah and the commission.”
Resident Bonnie Sue Brandvik injected a note of caution into the conversation.
“I’m onside with keeping the golf course undeveloped but I am concerned with the speed of this deal,” she said. “I’m worried that the deal will hurt the people trying to buy the hotel. They are working on financial arrangements that would include all three properties and without the golf course they may have to go back to square one to restructure their deal. I ask you not to submarine their attempts to buy the hotel; don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”
Maxwell commented that any delay might result in the Ades brothers taking the deal off the table. He said his feeling was that they wanted to get the deal done.
Commissioner Kevin Piccarreto moved that the Commission give Maxwell the go-ahead to sign the deal.
“I think it is a great opportunity for the town,” he said. “We’ve been asked by the residents to make something happen. We’re not throwing in the white towel; we’re not torpedoing the deal on the hotel. This is a win-win.”
He was interrupted briefly by applause then continued: “We need to act now so no one else can move in to buy it and develop it. Let’s not risk letting someone else get it.”
Commissioner Tom Shelly agreed with the need to move forward with the purchase. He asked if the town might be in a position to help the residents of the RPD in their dispute with the hotel owners. Maxwell said he didn’t think so because the Ades brothers had already indicated it is a legal matter between them and the RPD residents.
Commissioner Michael Wilkinson also supported the move.
“I echo what all the others have said; I’m behind it but I would like to help the residents of the RPD get their money.”
Vice Mayor Stephen Fowler agreed with the others.
“By signing the agreement we’re taking the golf course off the market for 75 days, after that we can buy it, then we’ll own it,” he said.
Town Manager Maxwell said it is possible he will be finished with the due diligence on the deal before 75 days and the deal could close earlier. The unanimous voice vote was followed by loud applause from the audience.
Traffic changes in the works
After hearing complaints from some residents about safety issues involving children trying to cross Indian Rocks Road, the town hired traffic specialists to make some recommendations involving two major intersections along the road, notably the intersection at Ponce De Leon Boulevard and the intersection at The Mall roadway, which involves several other streets.
James Sweeny of the firm Deuel & Associates brought some recommendations to the Commission. One was readily accepted and the other not so much.
The contentious issue involved the intersection of Indian Rocks Road and The Mall. That also involves Carl Avenue and Bayview Drive, which also plays into the intersection. The proposal is that Carl Avenue be cut off from Indian Rocks and just turn into The Mall, which also would be cut off from Indian Rocks. Traffic would be re-routed through the neighborhood.
Several residents, who had previously been consulted about the proposal, spoke against it. Most feared heavier traffic on their neighborhood streets and said although safety was the reason cited for the proposed change there was no evidence of it being unsafe.
The other proposal involved the intersection of Ponce De Leon Boulevard, Country Club Road and Indian Rocks Road. The recommendation was to turn Country Club into a cul de sac cutting it off from Indian Rocks Road, then putting a roundabout at the intersection. Sweeny said that would also have the effect of slowing traffic on Indian Rocks.
After several residents spoke in favor of that idea, the commission gave the go-ahead for staff to proceed with plans for the roundabout, but to come back with other suggestions for The Mall intersection that would see Carl Avenue get access to Indian Rocks Road. They could resume the discussion at their next meeting on Nov. 20.
Appointment to Infrastructure Board
Dan Hartshorne has been appointed to the Infrastructure Board. Hartshorne takes the place of Tom Olson who recently resigned. Olson has been on the board since 2010 as the representative from the Finance Committee. Hartshorne joins the 5-member board immediately.