CLEARWATER-- Mayor George Cretekos blasted the Church of Scientology in a letter to several constiuents last week, saying the church's decision to cut down two live oak trees on its property without city permission was disrepectful.
His letter was written the same day a story appeared in the Tampa Bay Times about the church's action on a downtown site where it planned to erect a massive tent for a planned November gathering of international Scientologists.
"I regret, as you, that two trees have have been stealthily removed. The City of Clearwater was attempting to work with representatives of the Church of Scientology to ensure that any action taken would be in compliance with city codes. Unfortunately, another approach was found to be more convenient," Cretekos wrote on Aug. 28.
Cretekos said he would like to punish the church, but didn't think any city punitive action would hold up in court. But, he wrote, "this disrespect for the City of Clearwater's ordinances and environment is most troubling."
The church paid an appromixately $2,000 fine last week to the city and a church spokeswoman said it had acted much like other developers. City Manager Bill Horne said that other developers have chosen to cut down trees rather than pay for costly relocations.
Cretekos wrote that it might be time for the city to revisit its tree ordinances and possibly increase fines for illegal tree removal.