CLEARWATER, Fla. -- A new vision for downtown Clearwater from the Church of Scientology. Today church leaders met with Clearwater council members, showing them what they think the downtown should be. The church has been buying property around downtown near its international headquarters on Fort Harrison.
"I think there's a lot of potential to it," says Clearwater Vice Mayor Bill Jonson who seemed encouraged after his meeting with Church of Scientology Chairman David Miscavige.
Jonson says the church's plans for its property along Cleveland Street goes well with the city's plan. "What the millennials want is an authentic downtown that has retail on both sides that feels comfortable, that feels more open and is a neat place to hang out."
That was also City Manager Bill Horne's biggest concern. "We're all working together to try and improve our retail picture so yeah. I think it's consistent with what we're all trying to do."
Mayor George Cretekos says it was a positive meeting and he isn't concerned about people not coming to downtown because of the church's involvement. "We need to try and revitalize our downtown and if the church is willing to help us do that and if we can get our residents to buy into this program."
There is one council member, however, who decided not to take a private meeting with the Scientologists. Doreen Caudell also sent a letter to the city manager saying they need to have a public hearing in front of the city council and the entire community. While the vice mayor did take a private meeting, he agreed the church needs to be more transparent. "He was very open about his proposal. Now we will see if he follows through and provides that to the rest of the community."
Cretekos didn't have a problem with it. "I meet with countless people all the time. Developers come in and visit with us to bounce off ideas. The media isn't there," he says. However, the mayor says the church will make its plans public when it has more specifics.
Maybe you're wondering how can council members meet privately with church leaders about city business? It's allowed if the members have their meetings individually. But any notes taken by city leaders or any plans given out are public record.