Belleair park parcel may be leased to country club

Shown is the vacant property in Hallett Park that Belleair officials may lease to the Belleview Biltmore Country Club.

BELLEAIR — Belleview Biltmore Country Club Corp. President Hal Bodley said that on one of his frequent golf trips, he played the iconic No. 7 hole at Pebble Beach, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

His wife, Patricia, took a picture as he hit a golf ball onto the green. He had the photo enlarged, took it home and placed on a large frame in his office.

“That hole has always been a passion for me,” Bodley said at the Belleair Town Commission meeting Aug. 6.

Bodley wants to share that passion by creating a golf hole overlooking Clearwater Harbor at the northern tip of Hallett Park, and he received support from town officials for his plan. The parcel is located west of Bayview Drive north of Waterfall Park.

Under a proposal presented to commissioners Aug. 6 before a full house at Town Hall, club representatives asked commissioners to consider an agreement that would allow the club to create the hole and lease the town property for 60 years if all renewal options were exercised. Commissioners said they are willing to negotiate with the club.

“We want it to be a win-win situation for everybody involved because it’s going to help the country club, and we think in the long run it might help the town of Belleair,” Bodley said.

Under the agreement, the country club would pay $100,000 to the town at the start of the lease, which has an initial term of 20 years.

For the first five years of the lease, the club would pay $10,000 annually. For the next five years the rent would increase to $10,500 per year. The rent would increase incrementally annually under the proposal.

The club would be responsible for all maintenance of the lease premises and all improvements on it.

In addition, the club would agree to rebuild the entire seawall along the point from Waterfall Park to the northern part of the property that is owned by the club, said David Phillips, an attorney representing the club.

“Leasing this property would allow the town to avoid the not-too-distant expense of rebuilding the seawall along the southern portion of the point. We estimate the town’s portion of the seawall, which is approximately 300 linear feet, will cost in excess of $100,000 to rebuild,” he said.

That was a leading point of consideration for Mayor Gary Katica, who said the seawall was built in 1940 and could fall at any time.

“It’s run by simple hydraulics. By simple hydraulics, I mean all you need is a low tide, heavy rain, and the seawall goes,” he said.

“The town could lose up to $300,000, and that’s why I see this as a win-win situation for the town of Belleair. I hope I haven’t stepped on anybody’s toes, but I represent all the people of Belleair,” Katica said, drawing heavy applause from the audience.

Commissioner Tom Shelly said he would be in favor of the county negotiating with Town Manager J.P. Murphy on a lease agreement.

“I think the price is a bit low. However, I think it would add value to our town,” he said.

The town has spent more than $30 million since 2008 on infrastructure projects and has more than $20 million in needed projects, Shelly said.

Commissioner Tom Kurey agreed.

“We certainly have a lot of obligations,” he said.

He added that if a deal is approved, some of the lease funds could be used to maintain other parks and renovate Hallett Park.

Commissioner Karla Rettstatt said she thinks the golf hole would will be a great addition to the peninsula.

“We are limited in the amount of scope that we can do to keep the parks that we have well,” he said. “We have a huge challenge with Hallett Park on the upper bluff, and we really have no financial wares to keep it up.”

She said the proposal will be a great way to generate revenue. However, she added that the club’s offer has to be better.

“It’s just not enough money,” she said.

Some residents spoke against the proposed lease at the meeting, including Nancy Hartshorne, who said the Hallett family donated the land to the town to be preserved.

“This completely contradicts the Halletts’ intent, when they so generously donated this unique piece of property to us,” she said.

The land was never meant to fall into private hands by sale or lease, Hartshorne said.

“This bluff, our bluff, is the only stretch of land for miles around that if viewed from the water is unmarred by the hand of man,” she said.

Lissa Dexter, who is a member of the town’s Park Board, said she hopes before the commission votes on the lease issue, the Park Board will have a chance to discuss it. The property in question, she said, could be included as part of the discussion on the restoration of Hallett Park.

Speaking for the proposal was Rogers Haydon, a member of the country club, who said he has lived in the town for 42 years and never has been down to the parcel discussed. To convert it into a nice park, he said, would be expensive.

“The golf course is a wonderful improvement, and I think most of the residents would either be for it or neutral notwithstanding the few who that have spoken against it this evening,” Haydon said.

Commissioners voted 4-0 to authorize Murphy and Town Attorney David Ottinger to continue negotiations with the county club on the proposal and related issues. An appraisal of the property also will be ordered. Commissioner Michael Wilkinson was absent.

Town gets new police officer

Tom Kelley, president and chief executive of TEK Training and Consulting Group, has joined the Belleair Police Department as a part-time officer. Prior to the joining the department, Kelley spent 11 years with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, six years with the Florida Highway Patrol and 10 years in security operations with the U.S. Air Force.

He has advanced training in crime prevention through environmental design and crisis intervention, and is a state-certified instructor in mental health first aid, firearms, instructor techniques, DUI, laser, radar and police driving techniques.