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CLEAR TAKEOVER: How Scientology doubled its downtown Clearwater footprint in 3 years


How Scientology doubled its downtown Clearwater footprint in 3 years
 Graphics by ELI MURRAY
 Times Staff Writers
Oct. 20, 2019
--- Quote ---Scientology came to downtown Clearwater in 1975. It bought a hotel and wrote plans to take control of the city.

The church’s campus grew slowly over decades. Its members bought property on surrounding blocks. Then in 2017, companies controlled by parishioners began buying retail property at an unprecedented rate.

They doubled the church’s footprint in less than three years.  ...

The Church of Scientology and companies run by its members spent $103 million over the past three years buying up vast sections of downtown Clearwater.

They now own most commercial property on every block within walking distance of the waterfront, putting the secretive church firmly in control of the area’s future.

Most of the sales have not previously been reported. The Tampa Bay Times discovered them by reviewing more than 1,000 deeds and business records, then interviewed more than 90 people to reconstruct the circumstances surrounding the transactions.  ...
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More at Tampa Bay Times

Followup piece:
--- Quote ---What Clearwater’s City Council thinks about Scientology’s downtown takeover
We showed the politicians a map of the land now owned by buyers tied to Scientology. Here’s what they said.
By Tracey McManus
Published Yesterday
Tampa Bay Times

CLEARWATER — The mayor now wonders whether the city’s $64 million downtown waterfront redevelopment project is a wise expenditure.

Another City Council member is hoping “we’ll get lucky” and the federal government will revisit the Church of Scientology’s tax exempt status.

A third is unperturbed, pointing out that when Walt Disney did outside of Orlando what Scientology is doing in Clearwater, Orlando got Disney World. ...

Earlier this month, a Times reporter sat down with all five Clearwater City Council members and showed them maps of the purchases.

All five said they believed the sales were related. Several pointed to Scientology leader David Miscavige, who cut off communication with the city over a disagreement around the time the land purchases started. Miscavige told the city manager that he would wait to communicate again until the 2020 election. By then, term limits would force several council members out of office, giving him a new slate of elected officials to try to work with.  ... 
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Rest of story

Ex-Scientology worker and critic Mike Rinder writes:
--- Quote ---... The biggest loser anywhere in the world from the IRS granting scientology tax exempt status is the City of Clearwater. Scientology loves to claim “we are the largest property tax payer in downtown Clearwater” — these days they are almost the ONLY property tax payers in downtown. But the real equation is, how much property tax revenue is Clearwater LOSING with the huge amount of tax exempt property scientology owns? The city would have MASSIVE revenues from these properties if everything was NOT tax exempt. The question is, are they going to do anything about it?  ...
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Rinder's blog

Tweeted this morning:
--- Quote ---Leah Remini   @LeahRemini
Clearwater’s Downtown Development Board has 7 members-4 of them are Scientologists;With the majority is it any wonder that Scientology owns most of downtown Clearwater? It is a ghost town, exactly as Scientology wants it.  No outsiders, no prying eyes, no one to stop the abuses.

--- Quote ---Mike Rinder  @MikeRinder
 Â· 1h
Tune in to @SiriusXM channel 124 at 11:04 EDT this morning as @smerconish and I talk #scientology, @MyClearwater, taxes and who knows what else.…
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10:10 AM · Oct 29, 2019·
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Clearwater: The First Scientology City — Another Huge Step
April 5, 2024
By Mike Rinder

It didn’t take long. Just days after Mark Bunker was replaced on the city council, scientology’s latest, and largest single land-grab in downtown Clearwater was announced.

The most prominent office building in downtown, current home to the Clearwater City Council, was purchased by Moises Agami, prominent scientologist. He now becomes the landlord for both the City of Clearwater and Tom Cruise…

Remember, the guy who replaced Bunker, old-boy establishment favorite Ryan Cotton, is a scientology apologist who “declined to say whether he believes Scientology is involved in the acquisition of vast tracts of real estate. Unlike his opponents, he has avoided bringing up Scientology in his campaign literature.” Wonder whether his view has changed as of today?

In the same article, the new mayor, Bruce Rector’s position is reported “his priority is to make businesses feel empowered to come downtown despite Scientology’s presence while also ensuring the city determines what the church’s end game is with the properties it controls.” Rector is quoted:  “We’ve got to come to some understanding about what they are going to do. For me it’s always been less about land swaps and the smaller pieces… and more about figuring out the bigger picture.” Maybe the new mayor has “some understanding” now? ...
Mike Rinder's Blog


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