07/02/15 Local Government
CLEARWATER — Painted pink and turquoise, the cheap motel sits right on the main route to the tourist mecca of Clearwater Beach.
Why pay more on beach, its sign says. Good rates.
But neighbors have repeatedly complained that the Budget Inn has been a haven for prostitutes, illegal drugs and criminal activity. Bad publicity surrounding this motel and others like it led Clearwater's elected officials to enact a nuisance abatement law in March to crack down on businesses that appear to be magnets for crime....
06/25/15 Special Topics
CLEARWATER — Paulette Cooper is a legendary name among people who watch the Church of Scientology.
After she wrote a book in the 1970s that was critical of Scientology, the church's security agents framed her for bomb threats.
Now Tony Ortega, a journalist who runs a blog criticizing Scientology, has written a book about Cooper. The two are on a book tour, and on Sunday, they will come to Scientology Central — the city of Clearwater....
06/25/15 Local Government
It's a mantra that's been repeated at a number of public meetings regarding the future of downtown Clearwater.
Knock down the Harborview Center, citizens are saying. Demolish it already. The view-blocking building perched on the bluff of Clearwater Harbor is a white elephant that ought to be bulldozed.
"Tear it down. Everyone agrees it has to come down. It's symbolic of everything that's wrong with our downtown and its waterfront," Jack Mortimer, president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association, recently said to loud applause at a crowded public forum....
TAMPA — Bob Hatfield is a proud member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the group that oversees the controversial Tampa site where a huge Confederate battle flag towers over Interstate 75.
"It's a historical marker. It's a reminder to all of us who had ancestors in the war," said Hatfield, who added he's upset the flag has been "hijacked" as a symbol by racist groups.
Hatfield also happens to be a staffer for a local congressman, Gus Bilirakis. That leads to an obvious question: What does Hatfield's boss think of the Confederate flag?...
06/18/15 Human Interest
Overdue books are one thing, but these days local libraries are dealing with a creepier problem:
The bloodsucking little critters have cropped up in libraries in St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Pinellas Park.
The libraries stress that the recent bedbug incidents were small in scale and the pests have been taken care of. They're quick to emphasize that this has not been a problem for the general public....
06/18/15 Local Government
CLEARWATER — One year ago, when a group of local history buffs got a lease for the vacant South Ward Elementary School, they got a step closer to their dream: opening a Clearwater history museum.
The Pinellas County School District agreed to lease the empty campus to the Clearwater Historical Society for the sum of $1 per year. In return, the group would put the site to good use, filling it with artifacts, photographs, documents and exhibits about the area's history....
CLEARWATER — Alma Bridges wasn't a woman who took no for an answer.
The president of the Clearwater-Upper Pinellas NAACP was a strong-willed perfectionist who wore many hats and touched a lot of lives. Friends say she left a lasting legacy when she died last week at the age of 80.
"She was real. She didn't hold back," her friend Madra Bell said. "She told the truth. She spoke it."...
06/15/15 Local Government
CLEARWATER — That was quick.
Clearwater's City Council gave a thumbs-down Monday to a proposed building moratorium on U.S. 19, days before it was scheduled to vote on it Thursday at a public meeting.
A majority of council members voiced their opposition to the idea during a work session Monday at City Hall. Although the elected officials technically weren't going to vote until Thursday, their position led city staffers to immediately cancel the request for a moratorium. The measure would have halted development along 7 miles of U.S. 19 for up to a year....
06/11/15 Local Government
CLEARWATER — Property owners on a 7-mile stretch of U.S. 19 in Clearwater are up in arms over a building moratorium that would halt development there for up to a year.
Business heavyweights are lining up to call the building freeze "unprecedented," "draconian" and an unwise overreaction by the city of Clearwater. The moratorium has already quietly started, and the city's elected officials will decide next week whether to keep it going....
06/11/15 Real Estate
CLEARWATER — At first glance, the property looks like a condo developer's dream.
After nearly five decades in operation, Clearwater Christian College is shutting its doors. The small liberal arts college will no longer be using its nearly 50 acres of waterfront land on Upper Tampa Bay at the foot of the Courtney Campbell Causeway.
It looks like a prime development opportunity. Look closer, though, and it turns out to be more complicated than that....
CLEARWATER — Newly divorced in the 1970s, Rosalie Holland decided to change her life. The small blond shed her panty hose, walked away from her job as a secretary and signed on as a first mate on a charter fishing boat.
Her family and friends thought she was crazy. The mother of four had always worked behind a typewriter, and here she was cutting up bait and untangling fishing lines....
CLEARWATER — St. Petersburg got rid of its red light cameras. So did Brooksville and Kenneth City. So, what should Clearwater do with its cameras, especially now that the devices are under legal assault in Florida's courts?
Clearwater's elected officials are being forced to make a decision. Should they kill the camera program, expand it, adjust it or keep it the same?
A decision is required because the time has come to renew Clearwater's contract with the red light camera vendor that the city has been doing business with since 2012. In a commonly used arrangement, a private company owns and operates the cameras that Clearwater uses to monitor two intersections....
05/28/15 Human Interest
CLEARWATER — Everybody loves a parade, but it's been a while since the city had a big one.
Sure, the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade is still going strong. But two big annual parades that the city used to sponsor — a Fun 'N Sun parade and a holiday parade — fell by the wayside years ago and never came back.
The city will get its parade fix on Saturday, though, as Clearwater is organizing a big one to celebrate its 100th anniversary. The original goal was to have 100 entries marching down Drew Street, but organizers have surpassed that....
05/26/15 Human Interest
CLEARWATER — The first humans who lived in this place, the bronze-skinned Timucuan Indians, called it Pocotopaug, meaning "clear water."
The name stuck when white settlers arrived here in the 18th century, building pioneer homes along a bluff overseeing what they called Clear Water Harbor. They chartered a city government on May 27, 1915 — exactly a century ago today.
Happy 100th, Clearwater....
05/23/15 Real Estate
BELLEAIR — It looks like the set of a horror movie.
In the darkened rooms and corridors of the long-shuttered Belleview Biltmore, the air smells musty. The wooden floors are slanted and warped. Plaster hangs from rotting ceilings. A film of dust covers every surface.
Developer Mike Cheezem, the resort's eighth owner in the last 30 years, steps across a threshold and says, "This was the original lobby. Here's the portion of the building that we're saving."...