* Belleview Biltmore
Hotel, TODAY'S ALERT
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Parts of the Belleview Biltmore have started to be demolished. So far the Pagoda, (this was a oriental-inspired style of architecture that did not blend with that of the original hotel) the Candlelight Ballroom, the Spa, both the interior and outdoor swimming pools and the Tiki Bar. They began the deconstruction of the South Wing, including stripping the plaster/lath from the interior walls and removing a couple of the dormers (which they seem to have removed intact and set them gently on the ground. We do not know if they plan to sell them or if there is another reason they seem to be handling them with care.
The reason the demolition has started is that the Pinellas County Court has not yet heard our Save the Biltmore Preservationist lawsuit or another lawsuit filed in Belleair to determine whether the hotel can be demolished. Our lawsuit was filed January 7, 2015. As a result of this delay, the Town of Belleair illegally gave demolition permits to the current hotel owner to start demolishing the Belleview Biltmore immediately. Recently there was however another legal document requesting that the demolition be stopped until the lawsuits can be heard in court. The judge reviewed this and refused to dismiss the other lawsuit. The date of this hearing could be August or September. Unfortunately, the current hotel owner is continuing to demolish the hotel.
We find it most interesting that a few years ago, a group of people in Belleair filed TWO lawsuits to try to prevent the demolition, and the Pinellas County Court reviewed both of them within three months. Two lawsuits were filed in January 2015 of this year, and yet Pinellas County Court did not fully review them yet. Why such a long delay when such an urgent matter is at hand with the preservation or demolition of a Pinellas County historic building?
The Town of Belleair never fully enforced their Historic Preservation Ordinance (a LAW) that they passed in 2005. As a result the former owners allowed the hotel to deteriorate in the rain, wind and outdoor elements: Belleair officials just STOOD BY AND DID NOTHING TO STOP THE DETERIORATION except some worthless daily fines that the owner legally maneuvered themselves out of. So the Belleview Biltmore appearance continued to deteriorate making it more difficult for an investor to purchase the hotel, even though the hotel was able to be restored. Therefore the Town of Belleair broke the clause in their law "DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT." They never enforced their own town code like they would have made home owners repair their roofs for example or lawns being cut etc.
When the condominium leaders around the Biltmore saw the deterioration, and potential loss of their property value, they started pressuring Mayor Gary Katica to tear the hotel down. Mayor Katica caved in as did his other Commissioners to vote to ultimately allow the demolition. The condo leaders failed to properly announce meetings for the condominium residents, and there was NEVER a formal paper vote among condominium owners to see if each and everyone wanted to tear down the hotel!
Condominium owners wrote to us at Save the Biltmore complaining that they no one ever told them the new condo towers would be as high as 80 foot tall obstructing precious views! No one ever told them this new condo project would taken ten years to complete! There were only scattered and many times unannounced meetings by the condo leaders; all designed by the condo leaders to demolish the Biltmore by NOT giving truthful information or taking a formal vote.
With so much pressure on Mayor Katica from the condo board leaders, he gave in from political pressure, in order to be re-elected which he was in 2015. This led the way for demolition of the Belleview Biltmore.
The Belleair Country Club also wanted condominiums built in place of the Biltmore so they could increase their membership which was falling because more people are NOT playing golf and not joining country clubs. By having more condominiums in place of the Biltmore, this would increase the population of wealthier people who could join the Belleair Country Club making it more financially successful.
By the way, the current owner Mike Cheezem of JMC Communities is a member of the Belleair Country Club.
What are the chances of Mr. Cheezem saving the measely 10% of the Biltmore anyway? He says a lot of things. For example he promised that he would save part of the wonderful historic Clearwater Beach Hotel, and yet he failed to do so. He has stated that he has respect for the history behind these wonderful structures, and yet he continues to work to tear them down. Mr. Cheezem originally said that even saving a tiny portion of the Biltmore is not even possible but his current comments appear to be just a "bait and switch" for him to continue his demolition.
Now that Mr. Cheezem has the approval of Belleair Commissioners to demolish the Belleview Biltmore, why should he keep his word to save any part of it? It will be just an added expense and time. What would motivate him to do so?
So please connect the dots as to the politics and financial gains that will occur if most of the Belleview Biltmore is destroyed.
We hope a developer would step in and offer the current owner, JMC Communities, an offer to purchase the Belleview Biltmore and save all four wings.
Please read The Tampa Bay Times article on May 24, 2015:
"JMC is preserving roughly 10 percent of the hotel — the original lobby and three floors of rooms above.
It will be remodeled into a 33-room boutique inn with an ice cream parlor, a bar, room for weddings and functions, and displays of photos and memorabilia. Like the Biltmore, the inn and surrounding condos will have white exterior walls and green gable roofs.
Even saving that much is tricky. It involves raising a four-story structure up on jacks, rotating it, hauling it the length of a football field, and plopping it back down on a new foundation. That job alone will take weeks.
"It's expensive to move it, but we felt it was critical," Cheezem said. "With the photographs and artifacts, you'll get a great sense of what the resort was like when it was functioning. That will be worthwhile."
Save the Biltmore Preservationists are still fighting to save all four wings of the hotel. We feel that is what is worthwhile.