Belleview Biltmore will face bulldozers - FOX 13 News

Belleview Biltmore will face bulldozers

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BELLEAIR (FOX 13) -

The end may be near for the historic Belleview Biltmore Hotel. The possible replacement might have a similar appearance.

The hotel, believed to be one of the world's largest wood structures, sustained heavy roof damage in 2004's unusually active hurricane season.

Now, attorney Ed Armstrong, who represents the development company that owns the building and its 20+ acres, tells FOX 13 News there has been too much damage.

"Over the past ten years, there's been so much structural damage as a result of having the open roof, and a wooden structure, and the Florida climate. The deterioration is just too significant and it's just not realistic to renovate it as a hotel, and use it as a hotel," Armstrong said.

Belleair Mayor Gary Katika said he was in the building a month or so ago.

"You see ceilings coming down, even on the first floor. You can't even go to the other floors, it's just unsafe," Katika said Tuesday afternoon.

Katika pointed out he has favored restoration since joining the town commission in 2000.

"It's a national treasure. You have to do everything possible to restore it," Katika explained.

But now that an architect's plans to purchase and rehabilitate the property have fallen through, "Enough is enough, we've had enough," the mayor declared.

He hoped to convince other town commissioners during a discussion Tuesday night.

Armstrong's clients propose building 32 town homes and 132 condominium units in two condo buildings. The immediate challenge: The town of Belleair does not have a zoning classification for that type of development.

"We'll explore what's best for the town and what makes money for the builder. You know there has to be some common ground," Katika said.

Armstrong said any demolition is months away.

"If the enabling ordinances are adopted and put into place by the town, we would immediately apply for site plan approval and a demolition permit concurrently, and take that through the process," Armstrong explained.

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