Editorial: Church of Scientology cannot veto Clearwater Aquarium project - 2014-10-31
Quietly trying to undermine a voter-approved plan for relocating the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to a prime downtown site is no way for the Church of Scientology to build more positive relationships with local government and the broader community. But once again Clearwater's largest downtown private landholder appears to be trying to circumvent the public process to get what it wants and ignore the city's larger needs. Whether Pinellas County bed taxes should support the aquarium's relocation should be decided on the merits, not the wishes of the Scientologists who already dominate downtown Clearwater.
As the Tampa Bay Times reported last week, Scientology representatives have been meeting with Pinellas County commissioners individually and delivering a clear message: They don't support the aquarium's relocation from Island Estates to the downtown bluff where City Hall sits, and they oppose the county spending bed taxes for that cause.
It's curious timing for an organization that has such a vested interest in downtown's evolution into a more vibrant area. The church sat silent last year as the City Council asked Clearwater voters to approve the plan, which involves the aquarium providing money to establish a replacement City Hall in exchange for a long-term lease on the property. The ballot language approved by nearly 55 percent of voters was conditional. The deal is off unless the aquarium can secure all its financing to begin construction by August 2016.