REVIEW AND OPINION

Application for Demolition Permit – Belleview Biltmore Hotel
 

Sam Casella, FAICP, PP

Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners

Licensed Professional Planner

May 12, 2005


In re: Application to demolish the Belleview Biltmore Hotel filed with the Clerk of the Town of Belleair on April 21, 2005.

Major issues: Major issues in this matter are consistency with the town’s comprehensive plan, the status of a demolition permit as development activity, and the level of review required by the town’s land development code.

Summary of findings and conclusions:


CONSISTENCY WITH THE TOWN’S COMPREHENSIVE PLAN

Evidence from the Town of Belleair Comprehensive Plan

  1. Comprehensive Plan Executive Summary
    1. "The town has a grand landmark – the historic Belleview Biltmore Resort Hotel – which, at the turn of the century, was a playground for the leaders of American industry and society." (Page ES-3, dated 2/16/99)
  2. Comprehensive Plan Goals, Objectives, and Policies
    1. "Future Land Use Goal 1: Ensure that the park-like, residential/family character of the Town of Belleair is maintained and protected while supporting the continued economic viability of local resorts and the preservation of the Belleview Biltmore Resort Hotel." (Page Comp. Plan - 1, dated 2/16/99)
    2. "Objective 1.6: Historic Preservation

    3. "Development activities, as defined in the town land development regulations, shall ensure the protection of historic and architecturally significant resources." (Page Comp. Plan - 5, dated 2/16/99)
    4. "Policy 1.6.1: The town shall continue to identify historic and architecturally significant resources to be protected by their designation as historic sites by the federal government, the State of Florida, or Pinellas County. (Page Comp. Plan - 5, dated 2/16/99)
  3. Comprehensive Plan Data and Analysis
    1. "The town has a grand landmark – the historic Belleview Biltmore Resort Hotel – which, at the turn of the century, was a playground for the leaders of American industry and society." (Page 1-1, dated 2/1/99)
    2. "The majority of the commercial and office uses are centered at the Belleview Biltmore Hotel. The hotel contains 370 rooms and is the base of the town’s economy." (Page 1-2, dated 2/1/99)
    3. "Historic Resources. Map LU-5 identifies the location of those structures of historical significance within Belleair. The town has several structures which are notable for their historic value. The Belleview Biltmore Hotel (circa 1897) is listed on the Florida Master Site File and the National Register of Historic Places. This is the largest wooded (sic) Victorian style structure in the world still in its intended uses. The importance of the hotel to the overall character of the community is reflected in the following quote from the 1989 comprehensive plan:

    4. "The Belleview Biltmore Hotel is an historic and scenic place which adds to the design of the town. The white hotel with its gingerbread trim recalls a grand and elegant yesteryear when the resort and golf courses sired the town around it. Belleair will lose much of its history if the hotel, which is a national registered place, were to be altered in function or appearance in any significant manner." (Page 1-12-13, dated 2/1/99)
    5. "Commercial…..
    "In 1996, 23.37 acres of land were developed commercially, comprising over 113 percent of the necessary acreage. It is important to note that 21 acres of the existing 23.37 acres are associated with the Belleview Biltmore Hotel." (Page 1-14)

    "In terms of commercial tourist facilities, according to the Florida Department of Business Regulation, as of April 16, 1986, there were 370 hotel rooms available in the town. All of these rooms were associated with the Belleview Biltmore Hotel." (Page 1-14, dated 2/1/99)

  4. Comprehensive Plan Maps
    1. Map LU-5 Historic Resources (identifies Belleview Biltmore Hotel) attached.
  5. National, State and Local Historic Significance Designations Referenced in the Comprehensive Plan
    1. National Register of Historic Places #79000687,
      1. Historic Significance: Event, Architectural/Engineering, Person
      2. Architect, builder or engineer: Kinnard, Francis J.; Miller, Michael
      3. Architectural Style: Queen Anne, Shingle Style
      4. Historic Person: Plant, Henry Bradley
      5. Significant Year: 1905, 1925, 1897
      6. Area of Significance: Community Planning and Development, Transportation, Architecture
      7. Period of Significance: 1875-1899, 1900-1924, 1925-1949
    2. Florida Master Site File
    3. Town of Belleair Ordinance No. 387, adopted March 16, 1999 designating the Belleview Hotel as historically significant.
  6. Definitions from the Comprehensive Plan Glossary
Evidence from the Town of Belleair Code of Ordinances "Section 66-3. Applicability.

(3)     Consistency with comprehensive plan. Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize development that is inconsistent with the town comprehensive plan."

"Section 66-10. Development and development activity mean any of the following activities:

(1)     Construction, clearing, filling, excavating, grading, paving, demolition, dredging, mining, drilling or otherwise significantly disturbing the soil of a site.

(2)     Building, installing, enlarging, replacing or substantially restoring a structure, impervious surface or water management system, including the long term storage of materials.

(3)     Subdividing land into two or more parcels.

(4)     A tree removal for which authorization is required under this Code.

(5)     Erection of a sign, unless expressly exempted by chapter 74, article IX.

(6)     Alteration of a historic property for which authorization is required under this Code.

(7)     Changing the use of a site so that the need for parking is increased.

(8)     Construction, elimination or alteration of a driveway onto a public street."

(Emphasis added)
 
 

Analysis of Consistency

The Comprehensive Plan of the Town of Belleair includes goals, objectives, and policies in support of preservation of the Belleview Biltmore hotel.

Future Land Use Goal #1 specifically addresses "continued economic viability of local resorts and the preservation of the Belleview Biltmore Resort Hotel."

Future Land Use Policy 1.6 provides that "Development activities, as defined in the town land development regulations, shall ensure the protection of historic and architecturally significant resources."

The Comprehensive Plan recognizes the historical, economic, and scenic importance of the hotel in its Data and Analysis section.

The Comprehensive Plan maps the Belleview Biltmore hotel as a historic structure and refers to its National Register and Florida Master Site File designations.

The Comprehensive Plan is dated on the same date as the first reading of town ordinance #387 which designated the Belleview Biltmore as a historically significant structure.

The Belleair Code of Ordinances makes clear that nothing in the town’s land development code "shall be construed to authorize development that is inconsistent with the town comprehensive plan." It is significant that the term development includes demolition as defined in the town code and the comprehensive plan. (Florida statute 380.04 also defines development to include demolition of a structure). Therefore, demolition is included in the code of ordinances prohibition of development that is inconsistent with the town’s comprehensive plan.

The comprehensive plan specifically identifies the Belleview Biltmore hotel in future land use goal #1 and makes clear the unique historic, economic and scenic importance of this building to the Town of Belleair. Clearly, demolition of the hotel is not compatible with and does not further the future land use goals, objectives and policies of the comprehensive plan which call for its preservation. If consistency means anything, it means that a development activity that would make the comprehensive plan obsolete is inconsistent with the plan and even in conflict with the plan. It is impossible to imagine a scenario in which demolition of the Belleview Biltmore could co-exist with the town’s current comprehensive plan. Granting a permit to demolish the Belleview Biltmore hotel would effectively destroy the comprehensive plan that the town now has.

Conclusion #1

Based on this evidence and analysis, the application for a permit to demolish the Belleview Biltmore hotel is not consistent with the town comprehensive plan and cannot be approved.
 
 

                                                    THE STATUS OF A DEMOLITION PERMIT AS DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITY Evidence from the Comprehensive Plan and the Town Code of Ordinances

Evidence has been presented above from the Comprehensive Plan Glossary and from the Town’s Code of Ordinances, Section 66-10, that the terms development and development activity include demolition of a structure.

Analysis

In making a determination of how to treat a development permit, including a demolition permit, the town will need to follow the requirements of its code of ordinances in addition to the 30 day waiting period that applies to permits to demolish a historic structure.

Conclusion #2

A demolition permit must be treated as a development permit under the town’s code of ordinances and cannot be approved without the review appropriate to a development permit.
 
 

LEVEL OF REVIEW REQUIRED FOR A MAJOR DEVELOPMENT BY THE TOWN’S LAND DEVELOPMENT CODE

Evidence from the Town of Belleair Code of Ordinances

"Section 66-4. Guide for Users.
    1. Under this Code, all development is treated in the manner that only planned developments were treated in the past. Thus, all commercial development, and all residential development except the building of a dwelling on a lot of record, must go through a review process similar to that used for planned developments."
"Sec. 66-162. Designation of plans as minor or major development.

(a)  Generally. For purposes of the review procedures set out in this article, all development plans shall be designated by the manager as either minor development or major development according to the criteria in this section. Before submitting a development plan for review, the developer shall provide the manager with sufficient information to make this determination.

(b)  Major development. A development plan shall be designated as a major development if it satisfies one or more of the following criteria: (1)  The activity involves combined land and water area of five acres or more.

(2)  The development is a residential project of ten or more dwelling units per acre of land and water area or of 50 or more dwelling units.

(3)  The development involves more than 10,000 square feet of nonresidential floorspace.

(4)  The development involves rezoning of a parcel of land (amending the official zoning map).

(5)  The proposed development is part of a larger parcel for which additional development is anticipated that when aggregated with the project in question exceeds the limits set out in subsection (1), (2) or (3) of this subsection.

(6)  The proposed development involves the placement of a provider wireless communications support facility within the town limits on town-owned property as set forth in section 74-282A.

(c)  Minor development. A development plan shall be designated as a minor development if it is neither a major development nor a development exempt under section 66-203 from the requirement of a development plan."

(Emphasis added)

"Sec. 66-164. Review of preliminary and final development plans for major developments.

(a)     Preliminary plan review required; action by manager. All major development must be submitted for a preliminary plan review. The procedure shall be as follows:

(1)     The developer shall file a completed application and a preliminary development plan as a prerequisite to obtaining a preliminary plan review.

(2)     Within 15 working days of receipt of an application and the preliminary plan, the manager shall:

a.     Determine that the submittals are complete and proceed with one of the procedures described in this section; or

b.     If a determination is made that the submittals are incomplete, inform the developer in writing as to the deficiencies. The developer may submit an amended application within 30 working days without payment of a reapplication fee, but if more than 30 working days have elapsed the developer must thereafter re-initiate the application and pay an additional fee.

(b)     Review of preliminary development plans where amendment to official zoning map required. The review and legislative hearings for preliminary development plans where an amendment to the official zoning map is required shall be as follows (see section 66-318):

(1)     The manager shall send a copy of the preliminary development plan to each member of the planning and zoning board. On the earliest date that allows the giving of required notice, the planning and zoning board shall conduct a legislative hearing on the preliminary development plan to determine whether the plan satisfies the requirements of this land development code and is consistent with the comprehensive plan.

(2)     The planning and zoning board shall make a recommendation to the town commission.

(3)     Upon conclusion of the planning and zoning board's hearing, the manager shall send a copy of the preliminary development plan to each member of the town commission. On the earliest date that allows the giving of required notice, the commission shall conduct a legislative hearing on the preliminary development plan to determine whether the plan satisfies the requirements of this land development code and is consistent with the comprehensive plan, and, if deemed appropriate, adopt a rezoning ordinance.

(4)     In addition to notice required by the Florida Statutes, notice for each hearing shall be mailed by the town to the developer and all persons who, according to the most recent tax rolls, own property within 500 feet of the property proposed for development. For multiple-owned structures such as condominiums, cooperative ownerships, etc., the mailing shall be to the property owners' association only. The notice shall be mailed at least 20 days before the scheduled preliminary review. The expense of this mailing shall be borne by the developer.

(5)     Both the planning and zoning board and the town commission shall consider:

a.     Characteristics of the site and surrounding area, including important natural and manmade features, the size and accessibility of the site, and surrounding land uses.

b.     Whether the concurrency requirements of chapter 70 could be met if the development were built.

c.     Conformity of the proposed development with the comprehensive plan, this land development code and other applicable regulations.

d.     Applicable regulations, review procedures and submission requirements.

e.     Concerns and desires of surrounding landowners and other affected persons.

f.     Other applicable factors and criteria prescribed by the comprehensive plan, this land development code or other law.

g.     The nature of the proposed development, including land use types and densities; the placement of proposed buildings and other improvements on the site; the location, type and method of maintenance of open space and public use areas; the preservation of natural features; proposed parking areas; internal traffic circulation system, including trails; the approximate total ground coverage of paved areas and structures; and types of water and sewage treatment systems.

(6)     The town commission shall:

a.     Issue preliminary development approval complying with section 66-166;

b.     Approve the rezoning ordinance where a rezoning is involved; or

c.     Refuse to issue a preliminary development approval because the proposed development, even with reasonable modifications, does not meet the requirements of this land development code. This action shall also constitute denial of the rezoning application.

(c)     Review of preliminary development plans where amendment to official zoning map is not required. The review and administrative hearings for preliminary development plans that do not include an official zoning map amendment shall be as follows (see section 66-170):

(1)     The developer shall file a completed application and preliminary development plan as a prerequisite to obtaining a preliminary review.

(2)     Within 15 working days of receipt of an application and the preliminary development plan, the town manager shall:

a.     Determine that the submittals are complete and proceed with the procedures set out in this section; or

b.     If a determination is made that the submittals are incomplete, inform the developer in writing as to the deficiencies. The developer may submit an amended application within 30 working days without payment of a reapplication fee, but if more than 30 working days have elapsed the developer must thereafter re-initiate the application and pay an additional fee.

(3)     The proposal shall be placed on the agenda of the next meeting of the town commission that allows the giving of required notice.

(4)     Notice of the preliminary plan review shall be mailed by the town to the developer and all persons who, according to the most recent tax rolls, own property within 500 feet of the property proposed for development. For multiple-ownership structures such as condominiums, cooperative ownerships, etc., the mailing shall be to the property owners' association only. The notice shall be mailed at least 20 days before the scheduled review. Notice expense shall be borne by the applicant.

(5)     The town commission shall consider:

a.     Characteristics of the site and surrounding area, including important natural and manmade features, the size and accessibility of the site, and surrounding land uses.

b.     Whether the concurrency requirement of chapter 70 could be met if the development were built.

c.     The nature of the proposed development, including land use type and densities; the placement of proposed buildings and other improvements on the site; the location, type and method of maintenance of open space and public use areas; the preservation of natural features; proposed parking areas; internal traffic circulation system, including trails; the approximate total ground coverage of paved areas and structures; and types of water and sewage treatment systems.

d.     Conformity of the proposed development with the comprehensive plan, this land development code and other applicable regulations.

e.     Applicable regulations, review procedures and submission requirements.

f.     Concerns and desires of surrounding landowners and other affected persons.

g.     Other applicable factors and criteria prescribed by the comprehensive plan, this land development code or other law.

h.     In evaluating an application for a provider [of] wireless communication support facility on town-owned property, the criteria set forth in sections 74-282A.1 through 74-282A.17 of this Code, the reasonably applicable criteria for a preliminary site development plan submittal as set forth in section 66-171 (site plan requirements), the performance guarantees set forth in section 66-173, and the issues set forth in subsections (c), (d), (e) and (g) above, shall be the criteria evaluated in provider wireless communication decision making by the commission. In addition, the commission shall specifically make a determination that the proposed location of all physical appurtenances to the construction of any proposed WCSF or WCA, as these terms are defined in section 74-282A, do not interfere with existing or reasonably foreseeable necessary public uses of the affected town-owned property.

(6)     The town commission shall:

a.     Issue a preliminary development approval complying with section 66-166; or

b.     Refuse to issue a preliminary development approval based on it being impossible for the proposed development, even with reasonable modifications, to meet the requirements of this land development code.

(d)     Review of final development plan.

(1)     The developer shall submit the final development plan for review within the time period in which the preliminary development approval is valid.

(2)     Within 20 working days, the town manager shall determine whether the final development plan should be approved or denied based on whether the plan conforms to the preliminary development plan as approved by the town.

(3)     The town manager shall:

a.     Issue a development order complying with section 66-167; or

b.     Refuse to issue preliminary development approval because the proposed development, even with reasonable modifications, does not meet the requirements of this land development code."


"Sec. 66-165. Project phasing.

A master plan for the entire development site must be approved for a major development that is to be developed in phases. The master plan shall be submitted simultaneously with an application for review of the preliminary development plan for the first phase of the development, and must be approved as a condition of approval of the preliminary plan for the first phase. A preliminary and final development plan must be approved for each phase of the development under the procedures for development review prescribed in this article. Each phase shall include a proportionate share of the proposed recreational and open space and other site and building amenities of the entire development, except that more than a proportionate share of the total amenities may be included in the earlier phases with corresponding reductions in the later phases."
 

Analysis of Required Level of Review

The town’s code of ordinances requires that "all commercial development, and all residential development except the building of a dwelling on a lot of record, must go through a review process similar to that used for planned developments" (Sec. 66-4) As the previous evidence and analysis demonstrated, demolition is defined as a development activity. Therefore, an applicant cannot avoid the code’s requirement for development review by starting with a demolition. Demolition is a part of the development process.

Development plans may be classified as either minor or major development. This development is properly classified as major development under Section 66-162 because it meets one or more of the following criteria:

Conclusion #3

Development or redevelopment of the Belleview Biltmore hotel site meets the criteria of a major development in Section 66-162. Section 66-164 requires, among other things, that major development be preceded by a development plan review by the commission, citizens and usually the planning and zoning board, and a development order before any development permit can be issued. As the appropriate development review and development order does not appear to have taken place, a development permit (including demolition as a development activity) cannot be approved.