CLEARWATER--Mayor George Cretekos wrote a short note to Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige before Thanksgiving, congratulating him on the church’s “successful opening” of the Flag Building on Nov. 17.
For three months prior to the celebration, city officials had butted heads with church leaders over permits, illegally cutting trees and other violations. The church paid fines and was cited by the city’s Code Enforcement Board for a massive tent wrap that the city deemed a sign....
12/03/13 Human Interest
CLEARWATER — As the city nears its centennial, local history buffs and an iconic sports club are teaming up in an attempt to secure their future on the site of the city's oldest school.
The cramped two-story Plumb House, a late 19th century structure, is the current home of the Clearwater Historical Society. It just isn't big enough to display documents and other bygone-era items, most of which sit in boxes, said group president Bill Wallace. ...
11/22/13 Human Interest
CLEARWATER — Richard Cornelius delivered his line perfectly, piquing the interest of the Municipal Code Enforcement Board, which was already flagging after just a half-hour of red-light camera appeals.
The seven volunteer members had already been compared to Nazi Germany by one angry offender.
When asked if he was guilty, Cornelius said he couldn't answer yes or no.
"Your picture says yes, but I've got an extenuating circumstance," said Cornelius, 64, whose car ran a red light at Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard and Belcher Road in September....
CLEARWATER — Residents of the Mandalay subdivision on north Clearwater Beach offered plenty of opinions to City Council members recently on how their quiet patch of beach should look.
Longtime beach activist Anne Garris said the council should stop residents from roping off sections of beach before the activity spreads. The beach should remain open to all, she said.
"The city needs to be interested in this, even if you don't have any legal involvement in this," Garris said at a Wednesday council meeting....
11/21/13 Special Topics
CLEARWATER — On Thursday, the city approved another major Church of Scientology event that is estimated to attract 8,000 church members downtown.
The International Association of Scientologists Anniversary Weekend is slated to begin the day after Thanksgiving and run through that weekend.
The church didn't ask for any major roads to be closed and most of the activities surrounding the annual gathering of the church's powerful fundraising arm are scheduled to be held inside a large tent next to the Flag Building, which the church considers its cathedral....
11/20/13 Special Topics
CLEARWATER— A wrap that until Tuesday covered a massive Church of Scientology tent downtown violated the city's sign laws, a municipal board ruled Wednesday.
The Code Enforcement Board also said if the church places other illegal wraps around the 150,000-square-foot tent that it could be fined $500 a day as a repeat offender. No fine was imposed Wednesday.
The church removed the controversial wrap Tuesday, prompting city officials to wonder if the church planned to attach other wraps for celebrations later this year....
Clearwater—Both City Council races are now likely three-way contests as a 28-year-old pastor has announced his candidacy against Seat 4 incumbent Bill Jonson.
Konrad McCree Jr., a pastor at Simply Kingdom Ministeries, a non-denominational church which he describes as having about 100 members, also works as a senior business analyst at WellCare Health Plans, Inc....
CLEARWATER — The northern stretches of Clearwater Beach are far emptier than the bustling businesses and rows of cabana umbrellas near Pier 60. On a recent afternoon, a huge flock of pelicans bobbing in the surf far outnumbered the handful of beach walkers and a lone couple canoodling on a blanket.
But some beach activists say the narrow beach, which fronts a residential neighborhood that was settled in the 1920s, is in danger of being privatized. ...
11/19/13 Special Topics
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."...
11/17/13 Special Topics
Actors Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kelly Preston joined a smaller than expected crowd of Scientologists on Sunday to dedicate what the church calls its most important project ever, its massive Flag Building.
Church leader David Miscavige presided in a ceremony that lasted just eight minutes and was marked by a burst of confetti that rained down like golden tickets. His remarks couldn't be understood outside the church's perimeter....
11/16/13 Special Topics
CLEARWATER — If Mayor George Cretekos could wave a magic wand, Clearwater would feel like Salt Lake City.
A decade ago, Cretekos attended a wedding there. He was apprehensive about visiting a city dominated by Mormons.
"But I found Mormons very friendly. They made me feel welcome. I didn't feel intimidated. I was glad that I was there," he said. "If I had one wish, it would be that when people come to Clearwater and they see the Church of Scientology, they will also feel welcome."...
11/15/13 Special Topics
CLEARWATER — Amid tight security and with their "cathedral" brightly lighted, thousands of Scientologists gathered in downtown Clearwater Friday night for the first in a series of events leading up to the dedication of the church's Flag Building on Sunday.
Dressed in evening wear, church members stood in long lines waiting to clear a checkpoint and be admitted to a giant tent for an evening of presentations hosted by the Church of Scientology's leader, David Miscavige....
CLEARWATER — Less than two weeks after the Clearwater Marine Aquarium got a green light from voters to proceed with preliminary plans for a new downtown aquarium, what had been a $160.5 million project with lots of bells and whistles could be scaled down, at least initially, CMA officials said.
After last week's early warning signal from the Pinellas County Tourist Development Council that the project might not win hotel bed tax funding, CMA officials confirmed they have batted around an idea to shave one-quarter off the 200,000-square-foot project and build in stages....
11/12/13 Special Topics
CLEARWATER — The city and the Church of Scientology drew closer Tuesday to a final agreement on city approval for a dedication of what the church calls its "cathedral."
The church has spared little expense for the grand opening of its $145 million Flag Building, erecting a massive tent, creating a manicured garden breezeway and hanging a massive red bow and bunting on the 377,000-square-foot building....
CLEARWATER — Clearwater's new planned aquarium, propelled by a tail-less dolphin, may shrink in size and cost less than half of the earlier $160.5 million estimate, aquarium officials said Tuesday.
Last week, Clearwater voters approved a referendum to allow Clearwater Marine Aquarium to build its new facility on land now occupied by City Hall. Discussions before the vote estimated the size at 200,000 square feet, though aquarium officials, at times, suggested that the size and cost might come down....