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Letter below to Friends of the Belleview Biltmore
from Sam Casella May 15, 2005
Document #1: Attorney List May 6, 2005, to Belleair Town Manager, Steve Cottrell
Document #2: Letter from attorney, Terrell K. Arline, May 11, 2005
Document #3: Analysis May 12, 2005, to Belleair Town Manager, Steve Cottrell
Document #4: Transmittal
to Belleair Town Manager, Steve Cottrell, May 12, 2005
May 15, 2005
Dear Friends of the Biltmore:
Friday, May 13, 2005 was a very good day for all who want to save
the Biltmore! For those few who have been working to demolish the
landmark it was just another baleful Friday the 13th.
Two significant things happened that day. First, the town manager,
to his credit, sent out a memo signaling that he has accepted several major
arguments put forth by preservationists regarding the pending demolition
permit. Second, the Town Commission, to their credit, hired as their
legal counsel for this matter Nancy Stroud who is arguably the finest legal
talent in the state for this type of case. The implication of these
two events taken together is we can reasonably anticipate that the town
is going to reject the demolition permit and fight hard to defend that
position. I say bravo!
As a citizen and professional planner who has strived for those two
events to occur, I’m deeply encouraged that Friday was a turning point
in the battle to save the Biltmore. Not the end of the fight by any
means. But certainly a turning point. Just 10 days earlier
the town’s former legal counsel was telling the world that there is little
that could be done to stop the demolition (St. Petersburg Times, May 14,
2005). Now it is clear that the demolition can be stopped and there
is an opportunity for all of us to take action that will give the Biltmore
the permanent protection it deserves.
For those of you interested in some details of the 10 days that led up to Friday’s turning point, I’m making available four documents:
My letter to the Town (May 6) recommending five attorneys for consideration
as special counsel. This letter was sent after 3 days in which I
contacted land use lawyers around the state to identify the best legal
talent to represent the town in this type of litigation. Number one
on my list was Nancy Stroud who the town has now hired.
My letter to the Town (May 12) transmitting a professional planner’s analysis of the major issues confronting the demolition permit.
My 11 page analysis (May 12) demonstrating that the demolition permit could not be issued because it would be inconsistent with the town’s comprehensive plan and because the applicant had failed to comply with the development review provisions in the town’s code of ordinances. My analysis was vetted with several land use attorneys including Michael W. Morell, Terrell Arline, Nancy Stroud, Steve Helfman, and Ted Taub. A few hours after taking my analysis to town hall, I got a call from the town manager about it and the next day his memo (mentioned above) was sent out.
A letter to me from Terrill K. Arline (May 11) providing his opinion as an attorney that it would be a clear violation of state statutes and local ordinances for the town to issue a demolition permit without first considering whether that development order would be consistent with the comprehensive plan. This letter was sent to the town on May 12.
My message to all of you dear people who are fighting this fight
is that we have won a battle, but much remains to be done. Everyone
needs to stay involved until we have ensured that the hotel is protected
by the full weight of intelligent public policies, strong local ordinances,
and other legal tools such as conservation easements. We also need
to develop wise strategies to ensure that its physical condition is protected
and that it remains economically viable. Those accomplishments lay
ahead of us, and only when they are in place can we rest easy and be secure
that the events of a few weeks ago will not happen again. The hotel
may be given a reprieve and the next months and years will determine whether
we can make the most of it.
Thank you and best regards,
Sam Casella, FAICP, PP
The Planning Authority ® LLC