Wednesday, November 22, 2017
News Roundup

Clearwater says huge Scientology sign will soon collect fines

RECOMMENDED READING


CLEARWATER — Church of Scientology representatives made their pitch to a key city official Thursday, attempting to convince him that a colorful wrap covering the church's massive tent downtown isn't a sign, but a crucial part of several upcoming church celebrations.

But city planning director Michael Delk remained unmoved. He concluded the tent wrap is an illegal sign, and he said he will post a notice of violation on the property by the close of business Friday.

"At this point in time, there is nothing to suggest a change in our path," he said.

City officials have decided that the wrap, embossed with an acronym for "Keeping Scientology Working" and the phrase "The Golden Age of Tech" in enormous lettering, violates the city sign code because it exceeds the 30-odd square feet of lettering allowed for a structure that size.

Scientology has until Tuesday or Wednesday to remove the wrap from the 150,000-square-foot tent, Delk said. If the church doesn't, it could be subject to a fine of up to $250 a day after a city Code Enforcement Board hearing Nov. 20.

The church didn't respond to an email and phone call from the Tampa Bay Times requesting comment.

During the meeting with Delk, church officials stressed the importance of the wrap, Delk said. They said the church planned to hold two or three special events in the tent and planned to remove and reinstall the wrap — possibly using different wraps — several times for those events, he said.

One of those events is expected to be the dedication of the church's Flag Building on Fort Harrison Avenue, a $145 million building that the Church of Scientology considers to be its cathedral. The dedication originally was scheduled for early October, but was delayed and the church has not revealed a new date.

Another high-profile event, the annual gathering of the International Association of Scientologists, a powerful fundraising arm of the church, was tentatively scheduled for Nov. 8-9, but the church's application for a city special events permit was withdrawn and never resubmitted.

Rumors of a third event that would occur in the tent have circulated, but the church has not commented. The tent can hold several thousand people and stands directly across Franklin Street from the new Flag Building. The area has been a beehive of activity in recent weeks. The church, though, hasn't released any public statements about the events or given city officials any firm indication of when they might be held.

The church's tent permit, approved in August, allows the five-story tent to remain in place until mid January on property bordering Court Street, the primary route to Clearwater Beach.

Another Court Street property has also been cited for a sign violation this week. A city code inspector wrote up a notice of violation of the sign code for a banner hanging on a building directly across Court Street from the Scientologists' tent. The large banner urges voters to support a new downtown aquarium that is the subject of a city referendum Tuesday.

That building is owned by Robert Roperti, according to county property records. Words on the banner indicate it was paid for by a group supporting the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Friends of CMA.

The city needs to treat all violations the same, Delk said. "We try our best to be consistent."

The tent-wrap ruckus is the latest in a series of tense encounters between the church and the city over the preparations for the church celebrations. In August, the church paid a $2,000 fine after it cut down two live oak trees on the tent site in defiance of city directives.

On Thursday, Mayor George Cretekos made an appeal to the estimated 7,500 members of the Church of Scientology in the Tampa Bay area, asking them to persuade church leadership to be more flexible. "In the church's case, it appears that they don't care. That's why I would ask their parishioners to say, 'Hey, help the city out; it's our city, too.' "

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

Comments
NFL Power Rankings, Week 12: Patriots remain No. 1, Eagles rise to No. 2

NFL Power Rankings, Week 12: Patriots remain No. 1, Eagles rise to No. 2

What follows below is a ranking of all 32 NFL teams. To build this list, we consulted five objective measures of team strength: Pro Football Reference’s Simple Rating System, Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average ratings...
Updated: 1 hour ago
At 107, hard work, loving family and lots of milk are retired milkman’s keys to long life

At 107, hard work, loving family and lots of milk are retired milkman’s keys to long life

HUDSON — The oldest resident at Atria Windsor Woods just happens to be one of its newest arrivals.When he was 104, Lloyd Klement still drove his car and exercised at local gyms. And until just a few weeks ago, he still lived in his Port Richey home.N...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Pasco asks, How do we how to pay for parks and libraries?

Pasco asks, How do we how to pay for parks and libraries?

Pasco County is about to measure the public’s appetite for changing how it pays for parks and libraries.The county has scheduled three public workshops for next week and is inviting people to take an on-line survey to determine if the commission shou...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Pasco County mulls preserving former Ft. King ranch

Pasco County mulls preserving former Ft. King ranch

LAND O’LAKES — Nearly three decades after Freeman Polk unsuccessfully attempted to auction his massive Fort King Ranch, the thousands of acres north of State Road 52 just might have a new buyer — Pasco County.Last week, a county advisory committee re...
Updated: 25 minutes ago

Florida Supreme Court suspends two Hillsborough lawyers

Times Staff WriterTwo Hillsborough County lawyers have been suspended from practice because of professional misconduct.The Florida Supreme Court ordered a 91-day suspension for Richard Luther Bradford of Brandon after he was found in contempt for fai...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Presenting the 2017 Sports Turkey of the Year

Presenting the 2017 Sports Turkey of the Year

Happy Turkey Day!Thursday is a day of tradition.Macy’s Day Parade. Turkey and stuffing. The Lions and Cowboys.And our annual "Turkey of the Year.’’It’s a tradition started by my former colleague at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the brilliant columnis...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Brian Setzer talks about Tom Petty, ‘The Simpsons’ and his third act with holiday music

Brian Setzer talks about Tom Petty, ‘The Simpsons’ and his third act with holiday music

Brian Setzer knows he’s overdue for a trip to Florida. For 13 years, the Grammy-winning rockabilly guitarist and big-band frontman has been packing theaters coast to coast for his annual Christmas Rocks Tour. But somehow, he keeps skipping this area....
Updated: 1 hour ago
University of Tampa volleyball finds playoff form in time

University of Tampa volleyball finds playoff form in time

TAMPA — Earning an NCAA Tournament bid is usually not cause for celebration with the University of Tampa volleyball program. It has become routine.But after hitting the abyss of a 3-10 record, after players felt their confidence was shot, after coach...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot: What you need to know

Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot: What you need to know

Just like the several types of dishes you’ll see at Thanksgiving, you can run any type of race before you stuff your face. The Tampa Bay Times’ annual Turkey Trot offers a race for nearly every distance, from a one-mile run/walk to a 10k race. • Clea...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bowen: A legislative wish list for which to be thankful

Bowen: A legislative wish list for which to be thankful

This column took some time to compose.The initial scribbling came late on the night of Sept. 10 inside Pasco’s Emergency Operations Center as Hurricane Irma tracked across the county. Away from family. Stuck in a too-small work space with a bunch of ...
Updated: 2 hours ago