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Scientologists and city draw close to agreement on Flag Building dedication

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.

About 10,000 church members are expected to attend Sunday's private, mostly fenced-off event.

Along the way, the church butted heads with the city over illegally cutting down trees and putting up tents and fences without permission. Multi-colored lettering on the 150,000-square-foot tent has also violated the city's sign code. The church faces a possible $250 daily fine for the infraction.

Last Friday, the city issued a list of conditions that the church must meet. And city officials said two upcoming church celebrations later this year hang in the balance.

On Tuesday, the church agreed with nearly all of the conditions and obtained permits for the illegal tents and fences.

Church representatives didn't respond to requests for comment, but Mayor George Cretekos said that he was pleased with the church's reaction.

"By having communication we're able to work through these things," Cretekos said.

"It's a whole lot easier than going down a different path, which is to do something and then ask for permission."

A special events permit is expected to be issued today if city officials sign off.

The church did ask that the city close portions of a sidewalk near the Flag Building and temporarily disable a traffic signal near the building. The city had denied a church request to briefly remove the signal.

City officials have said they probably wouldn't approve any tweaks to their conditions. But late Tuesday, officials were still reviewing the church's request, said spokeswoman Joelle Castelli.

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