Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater mayor irked as Scientology to buy more downtown land

CLEARWATER — Pinellas County is preparing to sell five buildings in downtown Clearwater to the Church of Scientology — much to the annoyance of Clearwater's mayor.

The buildings, on about 2 acres total, are vacant or little used. Most are between the County Courthouse and Scientology's complex of downtown buildings.

County commissioners are to vote on the deal Tuesday. Officials say the church was the only bidder.

For the cash-strapped county, it's a chance to unload five surplus properties for $6.7 million. For the church, it's an opportunity to add to Scientology's ever-expanding holdings in downtown Clearwater.

However, Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard said he's frustrated that the city wasn't notified. He said Clearwater might have been interested in acquiring a couple of the parcels.

"Obviously, we knew the county was trying to consolidate properties," Hibbard said. "We were not called to see if we were directly interested in any of the properties."

He added that selling the land to the church missed an opportunity to return it to the property tax rolls. The county-owned land hasn't been taxed for decades. But selling it to a business could have helped the tax base.

"You know, I'm just concerned about having more property off the tax rolls," Hibbard said.

County Administrator Bob LaSala said the sale of the land has followed county procedures. He didn't acknowledge any reluctance to deal with the controversial Scientologists.

"We got a fair price for the property," LaSala said. "We went through a bona fide process, an impartial process."

County Commissioner Neil Brickfield noted the church was the sole bidder. He also noted the land won't necessarily be tax-free, depending on its use.

"We put it out to bid. They bid. They won the bid. Their money's green and spends like everybody else's," Brickfield said.

Roughly two-thirds of Scientology's property in Clearwater is tax-exempt because it's used for religious purposes, but the church's hotels and restaurants are taxed.

Scientology officials didn't return phone calls Friday, so it's unknown what they intend to do with the property.

Two of the five buildings are offices for the county's Department of Environmental Management, which is being dismantled. The other three are vacant.

The Church of Scientology has been buying property in downtown Clearwater since it arrived in 1975. It now owns roughly 30 properties in Clearwater, which it considers its "spiritual mecca."

A version of this story appears in regional editions of the Times.

Clearwater mayor irked as Scientology to buy more downtown land 05/20/11 [Last modified: Saturday, May 21, 2011 12:07am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Forecast: Sunny skies, warm temperatures to rule across Tampa Bay this week

    Weather

    After periods of heavy rain in some parts of Tampa Bay over the weekend, the region can expect sunny skies, and warm condition to prevail through the workweek.

    [10Weather WTSP]
  2. PolitiFact Florida: How would Florida fare in Graham-Cassidy health care bill?

    National

    Following a sharp rebuke by late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., hit the airwaves to defend his bill that would undo much of the Affordable Care Act.

    Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.
  3. Whatever happened to the Zika epidemic?

    Health

    Remember Zika?

    The last time Gov. Rick Scott warned Floridians about the potential threat of the mosquito-borne virus was in July, when he urged residents to still be vigilant against bug bites and standing water. At the time, doctors and researchers were bracing for what was supposed to be another active summer …

    Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting Zika. Cases of the virus are down dramatically in Florida.
  4. Pinellas licensing board needs cash. Will the county give it any?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– The grand jury that said Pinellas County should not take over the troubled construction licensing board also said the county should bail out the agency before it goes broke in 2018.

    Pinellas County Commission chair Janet Long isn't keen on the idea of the county loaning money to keep the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board afloat. The county has no say over the independent agency, which could run out of funding in 2018. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  5. Is the Bundt cake back? How retro baked goods are becoming trendy again

    Cooking

    Once there were grunts and slumps, buckles and brown betties. Oh, and pandowdies and sonkers. In the olden days, people routinely made angel food cakes, tomato soup cakes and hummingbird cakes. These were not Duncan Hines mixes, but rather confections made from scratch following yellowed and stained recipes in your …

    Nothing Bundt Cakes in Tampa offers a variety of options, from tiny “bundtinis” and 10-inch cakes that serve 18 to 20 people. Core flavors include lemon, marble, red velvet and chocolate-chocolate chip, with featured flavors like confetti.