Where every Clearwater City Council candidate stands on Scientology - 2019-12-23
The Church of Scientology has been a dominant issue in Clearwater since 1975, when the organization made downtown its international spiritual headquarters. But 44 years later, the story of the city and the church has begun a new chapter.
In early 2017, the City Council approved a conceptual plan for Imagine Clearwater, a $64-million blueprint to renovate the downtown waterfront into a vibrant park. Over the next three years, companies tied to Scientology bought nearly 100 downtown properties within walking distance of the city-owned waterfront, the Tampa Bay Times revealed in October. The church and companies run by its members now own most of the retail property in the center of downtown, the exact area where the city hoped businesses and activity would sprout as a result of the park renovation.
The March 17 election has the potential to change a majority of the City Council. Three of the five seats are in contention.