Court Ruling Backing Belleair Brings Smiles
By Leo Coughlin
BELLEAIR - Belleair’s commissioners were happy campers Tuesday night in the wake of the court decision that upheld the town and threatened to hold up the rehabilitation schedule of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel.
Three Belleair residents – Fred Thomas, Robert Swinehart and Scott Spencer – challenged the town’s actions in approving the site plan and variances in connection with what Legg Mason Real Estate wanted to do in its project which will close the hotel down for three years.
Pinellas Circuit Court, which acted as a court of appeal for the administrative decisions of the town, ruled in definitive fashion that the commission did not violate any due process, that the town had the discretion to estimate its method of figuring square footage and that all those rights granted in the variances were appropriate.
Though the decision could be taken on appeal to the court in Lakeland, it is doubtful that court would overturn what appears to be settled law.
The decision was known on Monday and Mayor Gary Katica was more than pleased.
“It was frivolous and a nuisance,” Katica, who had to go out of town and missed Tuesday night’s commission meeting, said about the suit.
Commissioners discussed Tuesday night the idea raised by Dave Shimkus, a former Belleair Bluffs commission member, who advocates a consolidation of area municipalities.
Shimkus would like to see Belleair, Belleair Bluffs, Belleair Beach and Belleair Shore, along with Harbor Hills and Harbor Bluffs, unincorporated areas south of Belleair Bluffs, amalgamated into one municipality.
Given the view of most residents in each of the towns of desiring to keep their own autonomy and identity, Shimkus’s idea probably will not ever come about.
But the idea did get some interest inasmuch as there was a proposal that a group of citizens – some from each of the areas – might be formed to discuss sharing of services.
For example, Belleair would be willing, evidently, to have its police force provide service to others. The Sheriff’s Office now provides service to Belleair Bluffs and Belleair Beach.
Consolidation is much talked of these days. Already Belleair has contracted with Largo for fire and rescue service and it most likely that given the economic circumstances Belleair Bluffs will follow suit.
Civic pride has long existed in Belleair and interest is now building for the celebration of the town’s 85th anniversary next year.
The town is seeking citizens to volunteer for a committee that will do much of the preparation for the 2010 celebration.
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