Belleair considers selling land to golf club

The Belleair Town Commission is considering whether to sell this strip of land to the Belleair Country Club. Two meetings on the site will be held in the next few weeks to discuss the issue.

BELLEAIR — After years of talk a decision on whether to sell a strip of town land off Bayview Drive might not be far off.

For many years, the Belleair Country Club has wanted to buy the land to expand one of its courses. Despite many discussions, nothing ever happened, until now.

At the regular commission meeting May 7, the country club made a formal proposal to either buy or lease the land.

Club President Hal Bodley told commissioners that the club has wanted the land for some time, back when there was talk of renovating the west course. He said when the club architect saw the land he remarked that it was the missing piece for a par 3 hole on the water.

“We talked about it for a number of years,” he said. “We were advised that if we wanted it we had better come in with a substantial offer so that is what I am doing now, coming in with a substantial offer.”

“In a perfect world, we would like to buy the whole parcel, but back in July of 2016 we proposed buying a portion of it because we sensed that you didn’t want to sell it all,” he said.

Bodley said the club proposed leasing a strip of the land with a significant down payment and then annual payments to be determined. All of that would depend on a formal appraisal of the property.

Bodley said the town and the Belleair Country Club are interwoven; each is important to the other.

He said the club is about to undergo a $6 million upgrade and it would be beneficial to have the land to expand that part of the course.

Also included in the deal would be repairs or rebuilding of the seawall. If the deal goes through, Bodley said the club would pay $250,000 to upgrade the seawall.

With that, Mayor Gary Katica said it was his experience with seawalls and leasing that a certain type of wall would have to be built and the leasing of the land would have to be for 50 years at perhaps $10,500 a year.

Resident Ric Feinberg said he was conflicted over the issue. He said he was a member of the club as well as a resident who loved the area because of the park.

“Let’s look at what this could be before we give it away,” he said. “We have a long way to go with this, and we have to keep the best interests of the people of Belleair in mind.”

Resident Colin Davis was concerned over the impact flying golf balls would have on animals and people in the area. He was also concerned with the maintenance of the land, especially during storms.

“It is salt water not fresh water,” he said.

It was there the discussion stopped. Any actual offer, including dollar figures, would be made after appraisals were done and the commission was clear in what it wanted to do, sell or lease or do neither.

The next discussion on the matter will take place at two open houses to be held in the site of the park. One on Wednesday, May 22, and the other on Wednesday, June 5. Both gatherings will begin at 6 p.m.

That wasn’t the only land talked about at the meeting.

Recently longtime resident Bob Ahlf died, leaving three lots of land to the town. Now the town has to decide what to do with it.

Town Manager J.P. Murphy recommended that the town sell the land and his recommendation was quickly accepted by the commissioners.

“We certainly don’t need another park,” Katica said.

Murphy will now get formal appraisals done of the land, as individual lots or all together.

Commissioner Tom Shelly, a Realtor, recommended that the town sell the land as one large single entity rather than three individual lots. He said it is more valuable that way.

Shelly also recommended the land be sold at auction rather than accepting bids. He said the sale could happen after a four-month advertising time.

Town officials generally agreed that whatever money came from the sale be put toward the town’s ongoing infrastructure upgrades.

Commissioner angry

Commissioner Tom Kurey pulled no punches in denouncing what he said was a rumor going around regarding his relationship with the Doyle family in Belleair.

The Doyles recently bought and renovated the Pelican Golf Club and for years have been large benefactors of the town.

“The rumor is that I manage money for the Doyle family and therefore I am conflicted in my decisions as a commissioner. Let me be absolutely clear, I do not manage money for the Doyle family,” he said.

Kurey said he has worked hard for the town and stands by every position he has had and every vote that he has ever made. But he said enough was enough.

“I have spent a tremendous number of hours working for Belleair residents,” he said. “I’ve been complained to, sworn at, lied about and threatened by residents and businesses in town alike. Thankfully, I have a thick skin and a long fuse.

“But that fuse burns very quickly when you start to question my integrity, which is unassailable,” he said.

Kurey said he did not know who was saying those things about him or what their motivation might be but he said if the idea was to intimidate him so he wouldn’t scrutinize issues with the appropriate amount of care couldn’t be more wrong.

“I will not sit back and allow someone to make up bogus stories about me,” he said. “To initiate or to spread such a rumor is reckless and irresponsible. I will not tolerate such unethical behavior and neither should you.”

Early in his remarks, Kurey invited whoever was spreading the rumor to come forward. Nobody did.

Be wary of phone scams

Police Chief Rick Doyle told the commission he was having trouble understanding why people fall for telephone scams.

“I am amazed at the people who fall for these scams,” he said.

Doyle made his remarks while he was warning the commission that there were new phone scams arising every day.

He said the latest is one where the homeowner is lured to call back a number that only rang once on their phone.

“Once you do that you are routed through the old “900” numbers that charge you for every minute you are on the line.

“There was a case where a person was kept on the line for several hours,” he said.

Doyle also mentioned the case of a woman in Texas who lost $40,000 because of a scam.

He said Belleair police was instrumental in helping a local resident from getting scammed. He said the man’s bank became suspicious when he emptied his account so they called the police. The Belleair PD managed to stop the man before he sent any money to the scammers.

“I just can’t wrap my mind around this,” said Doyle.