BELLEAIR — A state of emergency was declared in Belleair to fight the spread of the coronavirus, which has also put the fate of the LPGA tournament in May in the air. The declaration was made at the town’s regular commission meeting March 18.

Town Manager J.P. Murphy said the state of emergency means that all town facilities are closed. That includes the Town Hall, the Rec Center, Public Works Department and any other public facility.

The state of emergency will remain in place for 15 days and will be revisited on April 1.

Murphy said the town has access to all the sanitizing and cleaning supplies it needs through Pinellas County. He said all public spaces are undergoing “heavy duty sanitizing and cleaning.”

Because of the terms of the state of emergency, Murphy can purchase needed emergency supplies without needing commission approval.

He also said certain town departments will get special consideration during this time.

“Our police and solid waste employees must interact with the public at all times,” he said. “They will be getting protective gear including gloves, masks and goggles.”

First responders will also get access to Clorox cleaners, which are no longer available to the public at large.

In addition to the public buildings and facilities being closed, Murphy also said the two private golf courses in town have to play their roles as well.

“Both clubs will comply with closure regulations as set by the state,” he said. “That includes no bars being open after 5 p.m.”

The virus has also means the Pelican Women's Championship LPGA tournament, scheduled for May at the Pelican Golf Club, is now in question.

For the time being, the tournament is still on. Organizers say they do not want to cancel it until they have an alternate date. That won’t be easy to accomplish because the LPGA has already canceled the next three tournaments and they, too, must be rescheduled.

The organization has until mid-April to make a decision. Murphy says if the LPGA lags on canceling the tournament because the crisis has continued, then the town will cancel it in accordance with state and county regulations.

Ironically, the discussion about the potential cancellation of the tournament came on the night that the LPGA representatives were to present their final plans to the commission. Those plans can still be used on the future date of the tournament.

Town takes next step in leasing land to country club

Commissioners unanimously voted to move forward with leasing some land to the Belleair Golf and Country Club. The land is just west of Bayview Drive and north of Waterfall Park.

Discussion about the golf club getting the land has been going on for nearly four years.

“This long journey began in 2016,” said Hal Bodley, president of the country club. “We talked about buying it because we wanted a dramatic par 3 hole. It will remind people of No. 7 at Pebble Beach.”

Murphy reminded commissioners that the discussion and negotiations over the land included two public meetings on the site and another at the Town Hall. There are also more public hearings to come, as the lease is required to be enacted by ordinance, the first reading of which could be April 7.

He said the appraised value of the land is just over $400,000.

Golf club representatives signed a letter of intent proposing they lease the land for 30 years. Initially the club wanted to lease the land for 60 years.

Financial terms include a down payment of $350,000 then annual payments after that.

Annually, for the first 10 years, the club will pay the town $22,500. Payments go up to $23,100 for the next five years, then $23,800 for years 16-20. Then $24,500 for five years and for the final five years the annual payment will be $25,300.

Club attorney David Phillips noted that altogether it amounts to more than $1 million. He added that the club will pay all the maintenance required and will replace the seawall along the waterline.

They will also build a covered bench area for residents who might want to rest during walks along the bluff.

“That is land which is not developable under tour current land use regulations,” Phillips said.

“It is going to be a beautiful spot,” said Deputy Mayor Karla Rettstatt.

“I would like to see the town approve it,” said Mayor Gary Katica, who joined the meeting via video conferencing because of the health risk in coming to the meeting. “It is definitely a win-win.”

With that, the commissioners unanimously agreed to the deal.

After the vote, Murphy said it was a good deal because the town receives $1.3 million for land it still owns.

Bodley thanked the commissioners.

“This had to be a partnership,” he said. “It had to be a win-win or we would have walked away. It is a fair and significant amount of money and you will still own the property.