BELLEAIR - Belleair residents and others concerned over the possible razing of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel who attended the town's planning and zoning meeting Monday found several reasons to burst into applause. The planning & zoning board was charged by the town commission to make a recommendation, as the matter is a building issue.
Town staff explained the review process of the hotel owner's application for demolition, which has been re-termed as the 'application for major redevelopment'.
Speeches from a town planner and those from various Belleair residents and preservationists moved the crowd to cheering.
Before the presentations, board chairwoman Gloria Burton reminded, "Any decision made today by planning and zoning members is only a recommendation for the town commission."
Robert Brown, Belleair town planner said as it stands Belleair's comprehensive plan calls for preservation of the hotel in no uncertain terms. Brown stated that one of the plan's listed goals is to ensure the park like and family residential atmosphere of the town, which is contingent upon the preservation of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel. Said Brown, "The plan calls it a grand landmark and asset."
Brown went on to explain. "We've reviewed their application and we're in a catch 22. Section 66.171C2M requires that historical and archaeological sites will be protected. The plan doesn't indicate how the hotel will be protected and the application is to destroy the hotel."
Brown said the bottom line is: "The plan to demolish the hotel does not protect historic resources. They wish to demolish the hotel and the town's historic preservation ordinance and comprehensive plan do not allow for that."
The board planned to hear additional presentations from the public, those living in close proximity to the hotel first and also from preservationists, but what they didn't plan on was an announcement made by a Palm Beach man, Robert Brandt, who said he is in town to learn more about acquiring the hotel. Brandt said he stayed at the hotel as a guest over Christmas and was dismayed at talk of it being torn down.
Brandt is against tearing down the wings or any part of the hotel. Brandt said he didn't think one; "…stick… brick…window… or petal" should be changed there.
Later Brandt said he envisions the hotel thriving again, with accoutrements from the past back in place, such as horse drawn carriages.
The Belleair town commission is expected to approve or deny the application at their next meeting Tuesday, January 17 at 7:30 PM.
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