Community News: Widow sues for Beach Theatre ownership

Michael France, who died in April 2013, bought the Beach Theatre on Corey Avenue in 2007 but closed it in 2012 amid low attendance.
Michael France, who died in April 2013, bought the Beach Theatre on Corey Avenue in 2007 but closed it in 2012 amid low attendance.
Published May 29, 2014


Widow sues for Beach Theatre ownership

A circuit court lawsuit could change the fate of the historic Beach Theatre.

The art deco establishment on Corey Avenue closed in 2012. Its owner, Michael France, cited low attendance and changing film technology.

France bought the theater in 2007. France died at age 51 in April 2013.

Now, his wife, Elizabeth France, is suing his estate for sole ownership of the theater.

According to records, she and her husband were listed as co-debtors on the $640,000 second mortgage of their St. Pete Beach home, which they used to fund their purchase of the theater.

France alleges her husband defrauded her by excluding her from the theater ownership and claims that he forged her signature on a $550,000 mortgage renewal in 2007.

Elizabeth France was divorcing her husband at the time of his death.


Library cooperative has new executive director

It has prompted a move halfway around the world, but the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative has found its new leader.

In two weeks, Cheryl Morales, who has spent the past 10 years as territorial librarian in American Samoa, will begin her new job as executive director of the library cooperative, the nonprofit corporation responsible for providing library services to the unincorporated areas of the county and to municipalities that do not have library services.

"Cheryl built the library in American Samoa from the ground up,'' said Linda Allen, who has been serving as interim director since Mary Brown resigned in September.

"Cheryl has done a lot of interesting things,'' Allen said. "I think the deciding factors came down to her enthusiasm and her experience.''

Morales, who also served as the head librarian for the Sanibel Public Library, holds a master's in from State University of New York at Albany as well as a bachelor's from Alfred University in Alfred, N.Y.


801 office building gets buyer

The eight-story office building at 801 West Bay Drive has been purchased by a company called OCP West Bay LLC. The 80,000-square-foot building was recently renovated and houses tenants such as Wells Fargo, Keller Williams and other businesses.

"The city recognizes the important role that 801 West Bay Center plays in the redevelopment of the downtown," said Teresa Brydon, Largo's economic development manager.

Available space in the building ranges from one- and two-person offices to an approximate 6,000-square-foot penthouse suite with gulf views.


CASA shelter breaking ground

A groundbreaking for Community Action Stops Abuse's 40,000-square-foot, 100-bed shelter is scheduled for Tuesday.

"Our current 30-bed shelter is no longer adequate to serve the needs of our residents, since we are turning away 1,400 women and children each year," said Linda Osmundson, CASA executive director.

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CASA has been providing services to women, men and children living with domestic violence since 1977.

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Learn, ask about beach project

Pinellas County Coastal Management and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will host a public meeting June 10 about an upcoming beach nourishment project on Treasure Island and St. Pete Beach.

The project is slated to place sand on select beaches from July through September, starting with Sunshine Beach, followed by Sunset Beach, Upham Beach and Pass-A-Grille.

An estimated 555,000 cubic yards of sand will be used. The meeting takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. in the auditorium at Treasure Island City Hall, 120 108th Ave.


City finances? 'Inconclusive'

The city is in good financial shape, according to its auditor, but not according to state standards.

The standards set by the state's auditor general are tougher this year, auditor Peter Schatzel told the city, resulting in the reduction from a "favorable" to "inconclusive" financial status.

Nonetheless, Schatzel said, the city "maintained a positive financial trend" during 2013.

"We found the city's records quite accurate and in good order," he told the commission.

Staff writers Piper Castillo, Mike Brassfield and Anne Lindberg and correspondent Sheila Estrada contributed to this report.