Belleair - While many towns are winding down town business for the holidays, Belleair's commission and boards are keeping busy, reviewing the application for demolition of the Belleview Biltmore Resort, taking steps to audit the town's comprehensive plan, and researching whether petitions concerning zoning submitted last fall are valid or not.
A regular election will take place Tuesday March 14, 2006 for the purpose of electing two commissioners. Candidates wishing to run for town council need to make him or herself known to the town clerk between December 14, 2005 and January 23, 2006 by 1 pm.
Though the historic preservation board will not meet again until January 24, planning and zoning board members will be busy as they were charged by town commissioners at the town meeting December 6 to review the permit application for demolition of the hotel.
Throughout the meeting Mayor George Mariani several times rallied for both town boards to be involved with scrutinizing the application, even though Town Manager Steve Cottrell relayed that Attorney Nancy Stroud advised that the historic preservation ordinance and board have no bearing on the application for demolition as it is a building issue.
"The application process for the permit is a different review than that of the historical preservation ordinance," said Cottrell. Cottrell pointed out that the historic preservation board does not need to evaluate the application, nor does planning and zoning because the commission has the power to approve or deny the application.
Commissioner Gary Kattica asked, "If this is complete, can they demolish the hotel?"
"It's up to you," replied Cottrell.
Rae Claire Johnson of Belleair, one of the few citizens attending the meeting asked if the application states what the hotel owners intend to do with the land if the hotel is razed.
"Fill it with sod and keep it green space," answered Mariani.
More discussion concerning land use came up during the town manager's report.
Cottrell asked the commission to give their input on the four major issues up for audit in the town's comprehensive plan. Cottrell and staff attended the county's November 2 Evaluation Report Analysis (EAR) workshop and identified the major items tagged for audit. "Are you satisfied with these four? Are there any other issues to incorporate?"
The commission members agreed with the major issues, two of which directly deal with redevelopment of the hotel and golf course, but directed Cottrell to get the town's planning and zoning board to give their recommendations.
There was little input from citizens regarding the EAR process at the meeting.
Johnson suggested that someone from the historic preservation board be added to the committee involved with the EAR process. "The more the merrier," quipped Mariani.
Town attorney, David Ottinger, reported his endeavors to resolve the petition issue. Last fall, 400 Belleair residents signed petitions demanding that the buck stops with residents before any zoning and land use changes occur. The County Supervisor of Elections has verified those petitions. If enacted, two charter amendments will bring all zoning and land use changes up for citizen vote.
Kattica expressed his concern that some of the residents who signed the petitions thought they were doing so to save the hotel, not to have all zoning issues put to their vote.
Ottinger said he is researching the matter of the petitions with the circuit court to determine their validity and if they need to appear on the March General Election ballot. He said, "I understand that these were given in good faith. We are in the process to find out if they are valid."
Belleair will hold its next town commission meeting Tuesday, December 20 at 7:30 pm. The next planning and zoning meeting will be held January 9, 2006 at 5:30 pm.
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