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Fate of Belleair golf course draws near
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The kitchen inside the Belleview Biltmore Hotel is among the rooms deteriorating according to Mayor Gary Katica.
BELLEAIR – Once the town of Belleair bought the Belleview Biltmore Golf Club on Indian Rocks Road 10 months ago, the actual fate of the property has been up in the air.

The town bought the facility for $3.5 million for two reasons: To remove the development rights from the property so no future owners could build condos or anything else on it and as a way of getting something out of the owners who were assessed more than $250,000 in liens because of penalties levied due to the deteriorated state of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel, an associated property.

At the time of the purchase, commissioners made no secret of the fact that they didn’t want to be in the golf course business and continuing to own and operate the facility was the least desirable outcome.

With that in mind Town Manager Micah Maxwell issued what he called “invitations to negotiate” and invited interested parties to make presentations to the town regarding the future of the golf course. Those responding will likely offer to purchase the facility outright or offer to operate it under a long term lease with the city continuing to own it and receive some income from the operation.

Maxwell told the Commission meeting on Dec. 3 that the invitation responses will be opened on Dec. 5. Once he analyzes them, he will likely call a special meeting of the commission to discuss whatever recommendation he brings forth. Maxwell indicated it should not be too long before that meeting is called.

In a related matter Maxwell recommended to the commissioners that they consider changing some zoning regulations to make it possible for the Belleair Country Club, next store to the closed hotel, to buy a little over two acres of land of the hotel property. The club is said to want the property to be able to expand its parking lot.

Mayor Gary Katica made it clear that he was in favor of the move.

“The Belleair Country Club is one of the town’s largest taxpayers,” he said. “I think we should proceed with changing the zoning as soon as possible.”

Then, focusing his attention on the hotel next door, Katica told the meeting he was astounded with the way the hotel had deteriorated over the past few months.

“I went into the hotel last week and I was amazed at its deterioration,” he said. “In the three months since I was in there last I noticed the ceilings are coming down on the first floor. Water is dripping from the ceiling at a time when it hadn’t rained in days. This is water coming down from the upper floors.”

Katica was in the hotel showing reporters around after the story surfaced that the fate of the hotel was likely sealed with the owners moving ahead on development plans for the property.

Maxwell said he and other town officials have been meeting with residents of the RPD, explaining to them the proposed zoning changes which would make the development of townhouses on the hotel property possible. He said more meetings are planned next week.

Bankruptcy case in mediation

Town Attorney David Ottinger told commissioners that the case of resident Casey Jones’ bankruptcy has gone into mediation and a meeting was held on Nov. 15.

Jones owns the property at 1723 Cypress Ave. It is a property that has fallen in disrepair and has had fines of over $100,000 levied against it. The bank that holds the mortgage on the property had indicated foreclosure was about to take place because of delinquent payments. It was then Jones declared bankruptcy, forcing the foreclosure to be put on the back burner.

Ottinger said Jones told the mediator at the bankruptcy hearing that he would get estimates on how much it would cost to repair the property and bring it up to snuff. He also said he was negotiating with the bank to try to restructure the mortgage.

“He should know whether he will get a mortgage modification in two to three weeks,” said Ottinger. “Then, if the answer is no, the bank will proceed with the foreclosure and take over.”

When the issue first surfaced earlier this fall Ottinger said one of the options being considered was that the town move in and buy the property, fix it up then re-sell it.

Neighbors have been complaining about the effects the appearance of the house was having on their properties.

Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance

Belleair becomes the latest in a long line of Pinellas County communities to speak out against the Biggert-Water Flood Insurance Act, passed by Congress in 2012. The act essentially removes all flood insurance subsidies paid to homeowners in the U.S.

Assistant town Manager J.P. Murphy told the commission that Belleair is affected by the act.

“Florida is the epicenter of the issue in the United States, and Pinellas County is the epicenter in Florida,” he said.

Murphy told the commission that 84 parcels of land are affected in Belleair.

Among them are primary residences that will see their flood insurance premiums rise by 20 percent a year until the full risk of the policy is covered. That means thousands of dollars difference.

Other properties get the full hit right away, as do primary residences, which are sold or have their insurance policies lapse. All mortgaged properties must carry flood insurance.

The commission indicated it will unanimously oppose the act and call for its repeal at the next meeting on Dec. 17.

Commissioner Tom Shelly said the idea is to kill the act altogether then begin anew with an act that would not be as punishing to residents.
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