Clearwater City officials meet with Scientology leader to discuss downtown revitalization

CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – Clearwater officials met with Scientology leader, David Miscavige, Tuesday to discuss downtown development plans.

One by one, city leaders met with Miscavige in private meetings at the church’s Ft. Harrison Hotel.

“We just bounced around some ideas as to what he thinks and what these experts think that we can do to help beautify and revitalize the downtown area,” said Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos.

Most of the buildings downtown are empty or closed. Mayor Cretekos said the church wants to help bring back foot traffic to an area that was once thriving.

“We’re talking the whole gambit. Retail, restaurants, ice cream parlors,” he said. “All of that is being analyzed, the data is being reviewed to see what the demographics are.”

The mayor said, this is not a scientology takeover, instead a partnership.

“The chairman also reiterated that it is not is intent to control the downtown, or to manage the downtown, as the ULI study had said.”

But, the closed door meetings, have some questioning the transparency of the church.

Council woman Doreen Caudell declined to meet with Miscavige individually because she said the public should be aware what’s going on.

“We want to be transparent. We want to see things happen and I think we will be able to achieve that. I think it’s really exciting,” she said.

In a letter to city manager Bill Horne, Caudill wrote in part:

“These individual meetings, requested exclusively by Scientology, ignore transparency and inappropriately snub our great community and our citizens from commenting on Scientology’s retail plan.  As the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, our wonderful and strong business advocate for downtown and our region, correctly stated, ‘we need open communication and coordination on downtown development plans.’”

The mayor said this is no different than meeting with any other developer.

“If we can do that working together, be it the church or somebody else, then more power to us,” said Mayor Cretekos.

Council members who met with Miscavige did stress for his team to bring any serious plans before a city council meeting.

The Church is interested in buying property owned by Clearwater Aquarium. The mayor said those discussions were brought up in the meeting.

The city plans to discuss the land in April.

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