Clearwater votes to buy lot coveted by Church of Scientology

CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – Clearwater City Council members voted unanimously to purchase a vacant piece of land at the corner of Pierce Street and South Osceola Avenue, Thursday evening.

The purchase price: $4.265 million. That may sound like a bargain when you consider the Church of Scientology was offering $15 million, more than three times that amount.

The piece of land is currently owned by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.  CMA had agreed to sell the land to the city before the Church stepped in with its offer.

David Yates is the aquarium’s CEO and told News Channel 8 the deal with the city was already agreed upon.

“The city made it clear about a year and a half ago they wanted to buy the property, so we held firm to that we do what we say and say what we do,” said Yates in an earlier interview with Mark Douglas.  “We gave them a written offer prior to any offer coming in from anybody else.”

A number of citizens were upset after learning the Church of Scientology had made an offer on the land.  Some feel the church already owns too much property in downtown Clearwater.

Dee Findlay is a former Scientologist and believes the church operates with two defining principles: power and greed.

“It’s very important for the city, to be able to control the whole city, and that’s a big part of it …You see they pushed it, they pushed it, push, push the Scientologists, they’re very pushy and they’ve got money,” said Findlay. “And they want to offer three times the amount or more. ”

But, Joe Corvino, who is not a Scientologist, feels the city made a mistake.  If the Clearwater Marine Aquarium could get $15 million for the property rather than under $5 million, doesn’t it make more sense for the aquarium to go with the better offer?

“We’re making an emotional decision on something that could be very…Just strictly financial,” said Corvino.  “Everyone can win in this discussion.”

Now, he wonders with the current deal on the table, how long it will be before the aquarium comes before the city and asks for future financial help.

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