BELLEAIR - The preservation ordinance aimed at keeping the historic Belleview-Biltmore hotel from being torn down was passed by the Town Commission on first reading October 4, but a leading advocate of preservation still isn’t satisfied.
Diane Hein, who led the fight to keep a developer from demolishing the hotel – the largest occupied wooden structure in the world - wants the Preservation Board to have enforcement powers.
Hein also is opposed to a plan by Rory Hiller to renovate the hotel.
Nancy Stroud, the lawyer whom the town engaged for the specific purpose of handling matters related to the hotel issue once plans were revealed that it might be torn down, said she favored the commission being the final authority on preservation matters.
Stroud first unveiled her work on the preservation ordinance September 7 when a huge crowd showed up at the town hall expecting a dog fight.
Hein’s group had drummed up tremendous opposition to the DeBartolo’s group plans to demolish the hotel and build new residences.
But the DeBartolo representatives canceled their scheduled appearance before the commission for a preservation on “development opportunities” for the hotel the day before.
A second reading of the ordinance is scheduled October 18 and if approved will take effect a month later.
There are still complications regarding the hotel. While the Hiller Group apparently intends to go forward with its plans and is trying to complete a contract to buy the property, Urdang & Associates, which manages the hotel, still has plans to demolish the structure.
Urdang filed an application to do so last spring, but the town has held up approval because, they say, the papers are incomplete.
Blocking Urdang’s plans boils down to a race to the barn, so to speak, because once the preservation ordinance takes effect in mid-November it will trump any plans to tear down the hotel.
The 25-page ordinance created by Stroud contains many elements including preservation of other historic homes and measures to prevent an owner of any designated historic structure from allowing the building to become decrepit through neglect.
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