Monday, December 18, 2017
News Roundup

Church of Scientology removes controversial wrap from massive tent

CLEARWATER — After the Church of Scientology removed a wrap from a massive tent Tuesday, it's up to Clearwater's code enforcement board to decide if the church should pay a fine for violating the city's sign laws.

Mayor George Cretekos said that the board's decision at its meeting today will receive a lot of scrutiny from the community.

"All eyes will be on that board and what decision it reaches," Cretekos said. "We'll take it one step at a time."

Meanwhile, city officials said the church has indicated that different wraps will be placed over the tent for upcoming Scientology events.

"We expected to see signage come and go," said City Manager Bill Horne.

An international gathering of Scientologists is tentatively scheduled for the weekend after Thanksgiving, and a New Year's Eve celebration is also anticipated.

The church has a permit to keep the three-story tent, imported from England, until mid January.

Crews quickly removed the wrap from the 150,000-square-foot tent that has run afoul of city sign codes since it went up in late October.

The city had planned to ask for a $250 daily fine for the violation, but Horne said he didn't know how the church's actions Tuesday would affect what happens at the code board meeting.

"There has been a violation. Period," Horne said. But fixing a violation, he said, "is certainly the ultimate goal."

Clearwater's code board will determine if a violation took place and then decide on a fine, Horne said, adding that the board could decide only to seek reimbursement for the city's administrative costs.

Duane Schultz, the board's chairman, said the board often follows the city's recommendation for a violation, but it has the independent authority to decide whether to levy a fine.

If a violation has been remedied by the time it reaches his board, Schultz said, they will often "slap their hands and say don't do it again," but it depends on the circumstance.

Schultz said he shared Cretekos' opinion on the church's behavior in regards to city laws.

"I wish they would be more team players instead of butting heads with the city all the time," Schultz said.

The huge lettering on the multi-hued tent wrap, including an acronym for "Keeping Scientology Working" and "The Golden Age of Tech" was too large for a structure its size, city officials have said.

The city anticipates that the church will argue that the lettering is artwork, not a sign, Cretekos said.

The tent was used this past weekend for the dedication of the Flag Building, which drew Hollywood icons Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kelly Preston. The church has said it plans to use it for other church events through the end of the month.

Church representatives didn't respond to a request for comment.

Charlie Frago can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4159. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago.

Comments
Police: Woman killed in Clearwater drive-by shooting while daughter, 10, in back seat

Police: Woman killed in Clearwater drive-by shooting while daughter, 10, in back seat

CLEARWATER — A Palm Harbor woman was killed in a drive-by shooting while riding with her husband and 10-year-old daughter in a Nissan Sentra late Sunday, police said.Elizabeth Rosado, 30, was in the front passenger seat of the sedan, which was headed...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Florida gas prices back to pre-Hurricane Harvey levels

Florida gas prices back to pre-Hurricane Harvey levels

Just in time for one of the busiest travel periods of the year, gas prices across Florida are back down to pre-Hurricane Harvey levels. Tampa Bay gas hit $2.30 per gallon today, while state prices averaged $2.37 per gallon, according to AAA, The Auto...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa flights affected as Atlanta airport outage creates holiday chaos

Tampa flights affected as Atlanta airport outage creates holiday chaos

ATLANTA — While power has been restored to the world’s busiest airport, the travel woes will linger for days.Thousands of people were stranded Monday morning at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where more than 1,000 flights were gro...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Portion of Lutz Lake Fern Road closed after crash involving motorcycle

TAMPA — A portion of Lutz Lake Fern Road is closed in northwest Hillsborough County following a crash involving a motorcycleHillsborough County deputies say the roadway is expected to be closed between Sunlake Boulevard and Cypress Green Drive for th...
Updated: 1 hour ago
St. Pete man and dog were constant companions, in life and now in death

St. Pete man and dog were constant companions, in life and now in death

ST. PETERSBURG -- For more than a decade, Gerald Rittinger’s dog kept him alive.The Air Force veteran died on Dec. 3 at age 77. He is survived by his wife, Jeanne, who said she would have lost him 14 years earlier if not for their yellow Labrador, Ze...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Advocates push orca breeding law as SeaWorld’s policy appears murky

Advocates push orca breeding law as SeaWorld’s policy appears murky

The announcement was rolled out to the world as a pledge. A promise.In March 2016 SeaWorld declared it would end killer whale breeding, making the orcas in its care in the United States and abroad its last generation to live in captivity.Later that y...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The government admits it studies UFOs. So about those Area 51 conspiracy theories.

The government admits it studies UFOs. So about those Area 51 conspiracy theories.

For decades, Americans were told that Area 51 didn’t really exist and that the U.S. government had no official interest in aliens or UFOs. Statements to the contrary, official-sounding people cautioned, were probably the musings of crackpots in tinfo...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rick and Tom podcast: Will Jon Gruden be the Bucs’ coach next year?

Rick and Tom podcast: Will Jon Gruden be the Bucs’ coach next year?

Jon Gruden will be inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor tonight, but could it be more than just that as the Glazers may be looking for a new head coach come January? In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones discuss whether Gruden would coac...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Missing Child Alert canceled for Homestead boy, 13

A Florida Missing Child Alert has been canceled for a 13-year-old Homestead boy.According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, John Noble-Sinclair had last seen Sunday in the area of 300 block of Southwest 4th Avenue.The case has been resolv...
Updated: 3 hours ago
LeBron wears one black shoe and one white shoe, speaks about Trump

LeBron wears one black shoe and one white shoe, speaks about Trump

WASHINGTON — LeBron James made a statement during an NBA game with his shoes — one black, one white, with the word "equality" in capital gold letters on the back of each.Then, after the game, James made a statement about President Donald Trump, sayin...
Updated: 3 hours ago