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    Downtown land deal approved

    The city gets a parcel with a building that could be renovated. Scientology gets two vacant parcels.

    By CHRISTINA HEADRICK

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published June 22, 2001


    CLEARWATER -- In an unprecedented move, the City Commission agreed Thursday to swap land downtown with the Church of Scientology, helping each other consolidate blocks of property.

    Commissioner Ed Hart was the only commissioner to vote against the swap, saying that he needed more information about downtown's parking needs before he could approve it.

    In the exchange, the city will give the church two vacant parcels used for parking. The lots, which total about 22,300 square feet, are south of Franklin Street and east of Garden Street on a block where the church plans a parking garage to serve its Flag Building.

    The land is worth $156,500 by city estimates based on county property records. No appraisal was presented to commissioners.

    For its part, the church will give the city an 11,345-square-foot parcel at 612 Franklin St. between the city's Fire and Police departments. The land includes a 6,400-square-foot building that could be renovated for city office space. The church bought the land in April for $365,000.

    The commission also took these other actions:

    Agreed to pay $269,635 to finish cleaning up land on the 900 block of Cleveland Street, once home to car dealerships. The city has been working for two years to create a 100-unit townhome complex on the site.

    With the latest expense, the city's tab to redevelop the land -- removing oil-contaminated soil and old hydraulic lifts -- will be $656,586. Clearwater has federal and state grant money to pay the bill. The cleanup is expected to take at least another two months.

    Voted to give Pinellas County slivers of city land to build Keene Road north of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard along the city's nursery and the Clearwater Golf Park. The city agreed to dedicate the land to the county in 1999 in exchange for $350,000. The county needs the land whether the road is ultimately built with six lanes or four, acontinuing controversy.

    Revised the rules for how docks are built, giving the city more flexibility to approve different designs of docks behind houses. However, commercial docks will now have greater regulation, requiring approval by the city's Community Development Board. Commercial dock builders also will have to show their docks won't affect navigation or marine grass beds. The new rules have evolved since Sand Key residents opposed a proposal this spring by the Shoppes of Sand Key to build a 300-foot dock into Clearwater Harbor. The proposal later was dropped.

    Approved rules to eradicate clusters of multicolored news racks by requiring publications to be grouped in uniform, "modular" racks that hold multiple periodicals. The new racks will have to be a minimum of 100 feet apart.

    Appointed Commissioner Whitney Gray to represent the city as a liaison to a non-profit organization led by former Mayor Rita Garvey that handles Clearwater's sister city program with Nagano, Japan. Mayor Brian Aungst had expressed concern about miscommunications between Garvey's group and the city, as well as the workload placed on city staffers to do tasks for the non-profit group. Garvey said she would be pleased to have a member of the commission more involved in the program.

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