Despite Some Answers Mystery of the Motels Continues to Persist
by Leo Coughlin
BELLEAIR BEACH - Pam Dubov, the Property Appraiser for Pinellas County, told the Belleair Beach City Council at its meeting Monday night that the motels located in the "no business" city apparently are paying all taxes incumbent on them.
She said all three motels are paying ad valorem taxes, plus other fees required.
The status of the motels, all legally chartered as non-profit corporations, has raised continuing questions.
One local resident, Terry Sandeen, summed up the questions in an e-mail received last week. His succinct comments captured the views of many who are wondering about the motels.
"Your article on Nautical Watch (Gazette, July 30) was eye-opening. Now, tell me if I have this right: an association can declare itself a condominium, have all units owned by individuals, not allow the owners to be residents and require that units be rentals. This seems to be acceptable to local, state and federal taxing authorities. What am I missing?"
Especially in the light of information gained from Dennis DiTinno, resident agent for Nautical Watch, who said last week that Nautical Watch, which consists of 21 units, has 980 owners.
That makes sense if 52 weeks of the year are divided among 980 timeshare owners.
But if that is the case, why does Nautical Watch, and the other two businesses - Belleair Beach Resort Motel and Belleair Beach Club - all advertise on the Internet for business, appearing to be motels open to the general public for daily rental, as well as post signs at their sites attracting customers?
There is nothing to distinguish any of the three motels in their advertising from the many motels and hotels in the area. There is no mention of time shares.
Ownership in a non-profit corporation cannot result in the distribution of any profits.
So the status of the motels remains an intriguing question.
As some observers have noted - "Every hotel and motel in the county would love to have an arrangement like that."
One legal minded observer opines that "Maybe it works this way - a tourist drops by seeking accommodations and then a fiction is created whereby that customer is told that 'you are renting a room that actually is a timeshare owned by Joe Blow, but we are his agent and are allowed to rent out his property.'"
In the absence of any other explanation that may be the case.
But what is peculiar is Belleair Beach's long-standing claim that it is a municipality without any businesses.
"Call it what you will - non-profit, time share owners, whatever, it is still a business," one observer said. "So Belleair Beach's claim that it has no businesses, is bogus."
In her presentation Monday night, Dubov said that Nautical Watch pays $23,877 in ad valorem taxes and another $4,300 in fees.
Belleair Beach Resort, which has four condo units and 35 rooms, pays $31,000 in property taxes and another $8,100 in non-ad valorem assessments.
Belleair Beach Club pays a total of $86,000 in taxes.
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