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Clearwater demands more details about dedication of Scientology building

The Church of Scientology’s long-dormant Flag Building is to be dedicated Oct. 6. In early November, an international Scientology convention normally held annually in England will be held in Clearwater, with 8,000 people expected to celebrate in a huge tent being shipped here from England.
Published Sep. 17, 2013

CLEARWATER — City officials have given the Church of Scientology two deadlines to provide more details about the Oct. 6 dedication and grand opening of the church's massive Flag Building.

If the church doesn't comply this week, the city might not approve Scientology's request for street and sidewalk closures downtown for an event that the church says will draw up to 10,000 guests.

In an email Friday, Christopher Hubbard, chairman of the city's special events committee, informed church officials that an "incomplete" traffic plan submitted earlier this month must be updated by Wednesday.

The church must also submit a certificate of liability insurance and an updated venue site plan by Friday, he wrote.

"Failure to meet either deadline will result in the forfeiture of City approval" for the dedication, Hubbard wrote.

Church officials didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The long-delayed opening of what has been called the church's "Super Power" building promises to be a high-profile affair. The building will reportedly house the church's highly classified "Super Power" program, first advanced by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in the 1970s.

The edifice, which occupies an entire city block, has been under construction since 1998. Construction delays eventually drew daily fines. In 2011, the church paid $413,500 to the city.

The Tampa Bay Times has estimated the church has raised $145 million for the seven-story structure.

The church requested street and sidewalk closures for an hourlong ceremony and related events in an application submitted in August.

City Manager Bill Horne said Monday that if the church doesn't meet the deadlines this week, it doesn't automatically mean it won't be able to hold the event as planned.

"I'll have to determine what the 'miss' is. It could be an administrative issue and I'll take it into account," Horne said. "It is a drop-dead date, but there may be an exception that may have to be made. I don't know that until I get more facts. But we don't expect people to miss those dates."

Horne said he had called church officials and was waiting for a response.

Charlie Frago can be reached at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4159. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago

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