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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Scientologist heads Clearwater board



CLEARWATER -- This city’s Community Development Board is a panel of seven volunteers who review the plans of real estate developers. It has long been a training ground for future City Council members. The board’s longtime chairman, Nick Fritsch, recently stepped down when his most recent term ended.

Time to pick a new chairperson. The job is important, but it’s also a huge pain. The chairperson constantly has to explain the board’s highly technical and legalistic rules to normal citizens who are furious that somebody is trying to build something big right next to their property.

At a meeting last week, vice chairman Thomas Coates asked for nominations.

“Thomas Coates,” somebody said.

“Are there any other nominations?” Coates asked.

Absolute silence.

“Oh, dear,” Coates said in his distinguished South African accent, prompting a round of laughter. “Can I vote against myself?”

After a unanimous vote, he added, “You guys are stuck with me.”

Coates – an architect, publisher and design consultant – is respected by his peers on the board for his thoughtful questions and comments. He also appears to be the first member of the Church of Scientology to head a Clearwater city board.

Frank Dame, executive vice president of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, was nominated to be the development board’s vice chairman.

This vote was a nearly unanimous round of “Ayes.”

“Anyone against?” Coates asked the board.

“Nay,” said Dame, prompting more laughter.

[Last modified: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 11:29am]


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