Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Legal glitch delays Clearwater vote on property Church of Scientology covets

Clearwater and the Church of Scientology both want the Clearwater Marine Aquarium-owned lot across from City Hall.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Clearwater and the Church of Scientology both want the Clearwater Marine Aquarium-owned lot across from City Hall.

CLEARWATER — The City Council's vote scheduled for Thursday on whether to buy a 1.4-acre downtown lot coveted by the Church of Scientology has been delayed a month because it wasn't properly advertised.

In June, someone submitted a public records request asking for two appraisals the city ordered on the Clearwater Marine Aquarium-owned property on the corner of Pierce Street and Osceola Avenue across the street from City Hall.

The city declined to release the records, citing an exemption in state law allowing municipalities to keep appraisals of property they're pursuing secret until a contract is considered by the council.

The law requires 30 days public notice of the City Council's discussion of the purchase if the exemption is used, but City Attorney Pam Akin said she didn't realize the requirement until Friday.

Akin acknowledged that it was "an accidental oversight" and said the purchase discussion will be added to council's April 20 agenda.

The timing is critical because Scientology leader David Miscavige scheduled private meetings with each City Council member for today in advance of the vote. The delay gives the church 30 extra days to lobby city and aquarium officials about the property that Miscavige has told City Manager Bill Horne is crucial to Scientology's interests.

Aquarium CEO David Yates said the delay does not affect the nonprofit's commitment in selling to the city.

"We're not looking at any other offer from anybody else, no matter who it is," Yates said.

Consultants who designed the city's 10-year, $55 million waterfront redevelopment plan included the aquarium lot as property the city should ensure meets "the community's vision and productively contribute to downtown."

Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw said the church wants the land, adjacent to the church's 13-story Oak Cove religious retreat and across the street from its Fort Harrison Hotel, "to provide additional accommodations for our parishioners."

Scientology offered the aquarium $4.25 million in 2015, but Yates said his board was giving the city time to decide on buying the property.

Along with discussing the lot today, Miscavige will brief elected officials on the church's master retail plan first reported by the Tampa Bay Times last week.

The plan, which does not need approval from the public, requires all downtown property being bought by the church, its parishioners or others willing to participate.

The concept involves recruiting major national retailers to anchor the district and filling the grid with handpicked businesses, similar to how an outdoor mall is established.

Mayor George Cretekos said he doesn't see the delayed vote complicating the city's consideration of purchasing the aquarium property.

"I certainly don't want us to do something that then comes back and haunts us if we were to vote on it and then find we did something wrong," Cretekos said. "I'd rather postpone it 30 days and do it right."

Contact Tracey McManus at tmcmanus@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.

Legal glitch delays Clearwater vote on property Church of Scientology covets 03/13/17 [Last modified: Monday, March 13, 2017 9:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Deandre Gilmore gets 20 years in death of toddler

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Deandre Gilmore was sentenced to 20 years in state prison Monday in the death of his ex-girlfriend's 19-month-old daughter.

  2. David Letterman's friends — and shrink — make his Twain ceremony as funny as his late-night legacy

    The Feed

    For years, David Letterman, consumed by insecurities and the relentless pace of a nightly television program, would respond to the loud cheers of his audience with a strained smile and a half-scolding, half-embarrassed wave to "cut that out."

    David Letterman is honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, in Washington, D.C. [Owen Sweeney | Invision | AP]
  3. Target says customers want it to pause the Christmas creep

    Retail

    NEW YORK — Target says customers want it to pause the "Christmas creep." It says it wants to be more in tune with customers' mindset, so it plans to ease in holiday promotions this year while better recognizing Thanksgiving.

     Target says customers want it to pause the "Christmas creep." It says it wants to be more in tune with customers' mindset, so it plans to ease in holiday promotions this year while better recognizing Thanksgiving. This is Target's new store in Manhattan's Herald Square that opened last week. 
[Kavita Kumar/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS]
  4. Foo Fighters coming to the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa

    Blogs

    It's times like these we learn to love Mondays again.

    Foo Fighters
  5. Lightning needs to hold onto Sergachev

    Blogs

    Here’s hoping the Lightning holds onto Mikhail Sergachev.

    Mikhail Sergachev has scored his first three NHL goals in his last two NHL games.