Category Archives: News

Belleview

Commissioners Unanimously Voted to Reverse Biltmore Zoning Decision

Town commissioners met Tuesday evening and unanimously voted to reverse an earlier decision to wait six months before discussing new zoning options for the Belleview Biltmore property.

Current zoning on the Biltmore site allows only for a hotel or single-family homes but new zoning options would allow the developer to tear down the historic structure to build anything from condos to restaurants, depending on what they apply for.

St. Petersburg developer Mike Cheezem, who has a contract to buy the deteriorating hotel, explained that a portion of the hotel will have to be demolished and envisions a mixed-use plan in which he would transform a portion of the 117-year-old Biltmore into a small boutique hotel that would operate alongside condos and townhomes.

A large number of people have been fighting for restoration of the structure but no one has come forward with the money to do so. Commissioner Mike Wilkerson stated that a full hotel restoration is preferred, but Cheezem’s proposal is a compromise. He noted that even if the new zoning options pass, someone could still come forward to purchase the hotel with the option to preserve it.

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Co-Owner of the Glass Bank Found Dead

Frank Wolfe, 82, a longtime resident of Cocoa Beach and co-owner of the Glass Bank, died Wednesday as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

His death came a day after a court ruling cleared the way for city to demolish the once-iconic building.

Following a years-long dispute about what to do with the building, a three-judge appellate court panel affirmed that Wolfe owed millions of dollars for assessments, fees and repairs to majority owner Joseph Yossifon, who owned the whole building except for the penthouse, which was owned and built by Wolfe.

Last month, the condo association signed an agreement with Cocoa Beach officials to let the city declare the structure a nuisance, demolish it, clear it, and then have the owners pay back the costs of the demolition within three years. Wolfe rejected the proposal, but Tuesday’s ruling cleared the way for the association to begin foreclosure proceedings against Wolfe.

For years, the Glass Bank, built in 1961, was a futuristic landmark in Cocoa Beach. Once a prime business address, Ramon’s Rainbow Room nightclub on the top floor regularly hosted national politicians, astronauts and Hollywood stars.

But the building has sat empty for years now, except for Wolfe, who lived in a penthouse atop of the building.

Bob Baugher, a longtime friend of Wolfe’s, spoke with him early Wednesday afternoon. Shortly after Wolfe left his office, police responded to a 9-1-1 call about a man down in the building’s garage. According to Baugher, the power was cut so there was no telling how Wolfe must have felt when he came back to the building only to find he couldn’t get back into his house.

“It’s a tragedy. The whole thing just makes me sick. He was a friend. He was an honorable person. But he got screwed by the justice system. It’s not hard to figure out. They pushed him off the cliff.”

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55 Bodies Exhumed at Dozier School for Boys

University of South Florida announced Tuesday that they have exhumed 55 bodies at the closed Florida’s Dozier School for Boys, a reform school notorious for the abuse which occurred there. That’s five more than what previous fieldwork had indicated and 24 more bodies than what official records indicate should be there.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that among the bodies, anthropologists found artifacts including belt buckles, zippers, coffin hardware, buttons, bottles of embalming fluid and a marble in a boy’s pocket. They found more modern debris, signs that part of the cemetery had been used as a dump. They also found remains under a road, under a tree and spread throughout surrounding forest.

The school opened in 1900, known as the Florida Industrial School for Boys, the Florida School for Boys and the Dozier School for Boys. Throughout the years, inspections made by the state found that kids were handcuffed and hung from the bars in their cells, hog-tied, put in isolation for up to three-weeks at a time and beaten with a leather strap in a building known as “The White House”.

The state closed the school in 2011, claiming that operating the school wasn’t within the budget.

Over 500 men, former inmates who described themselves as the “White House Boys”, have stepped forward with stories of abuse by the staff. Many of these allegations were of the previously mentioned “White House”, where whippings were carried out with a 3-feet-long belt made of leather and metal and were thorough enough that the recipients’ underwear became embedded in their skin. Some alleged they were whipped until they had lost consciousnesses and that they would hit you harder if you cried. Some former inmates also claimed there was a “rape room” at the school where they were sexually abused.

USF hopes to identify the bodies using samples with DNA collected from the families of boys who died at Dozier. The team says it recovered “bones, teeth and numerous artifacts in every one of the 55 burials”