Urban issues

A Beautiful Addition to Downtown

It’s a 1.4-acre rectangular vacant lot adjacent to Clearwater City Hall that the Church of Scientology had desired for a decade as the remaining property to complete its campus. It is immediately adjacent to the Oak Cove religious retreat—a hotel facility for visiting parishioners and their families. It is an obvious site for amenities for the hotel that any developer would need and expect the city to understand.

The Church had hoped to build a swimming pool and a children’s recreational complex for parishioners visiting from around the world. The Church would have paid property tax on the land—which had been off the tax rolls for more than 30 years and is to this date.

In 2017, the Church provided this video to Clearwater’s Mayor, City Council and City Manager after the then owner of the lot, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA), offered it for sale. Incredibly, the CMA refused a $15 million offer from the Church and instead sold it to the city for just under its appraised value of $4.25 million. The city subsequently leased the lot back to the CMA for $1 a year. To date, not a penny of tax has been paid on the land.

As this video illustrates, the Church would have transformed a dirt lot into an attractive complex with a swimming pool that would augment the Oak Cove—something every other hotel in and around Clearwater has. More to the point, and in the interest of the city, the property would have been on the tax roll.