In what may have been the largest monetary city code violation in Clearwater's history, the Church of Scientology paid a six-figure sum of money Thursday to end a five-year battle with the city over code violations in a downtown building.
Thursday, the Church of Scientology paid the city $413,500 that had built up over code violation's at the church's Flag Building, 215 S. Fort Harrison Ave., which takes up an entire city block.
$Had the church waited another day, the fines would have been over $450,000 and the city would have begun a collections process to obtain the fines.
The genesis of the fines began when, during construction of the building, the church began building up $250 in fines daily as the city code enforcement believed the building had turned into an eyesore due to neglect.
The church had previously sought to negotiate a lower fine and offered to pay $45,250 of the $413,000. The offer was rejected by the city and Pat Harney, spokesman for the church, in a last month, suggested the church may fight the fine in court.
“I’ll leave that up to the legal guys,” she said. “Our argument is that we were in functional compliance in 2007.” Harney said.
Code Enforcement Timeline:
- October 1998: Church of Scientology makes plans for property at 215 S Ft. Harrison
- March 28, 2000: Permit 1 issued for construction of seven story shell/core building
- Nov. 21, 2004: Permit 1 expires; “The church stopped construction for internal planing purposes and to change general contractors,” is written on page three of a brief to the city.
- 2006: Notice of violation issued for expired permit 1
- March 22, 2006: Code Enforcement Board orders Church to activate required permits within 90 days (June 25, 2006) and to complete work and obtain inspections within 180 days (Sept. 23).
- April 26, 2006: Because the church’s first certified site plan expired in 2004, they file a Flexible Standard Application
- Aug. 31, 2006: Development Review Committee reviews application.
- Oct. 2, 2006: Development order is issued for Flag site
- Oct. 6, 2006: New permit application for shell/core completion and completion of permit 1 which includes curbs, sidewalks, sod and stairwell doors.
- Jan. 17, 2007: Permit 2 is issued.
- Oct. 21, 2007: Permit 2 expires but is extended five more times; Oct. 26, 2007; Dec. 12, 2007; Jan. 24, 2008; Aug. 18, 2008; and Oct. 17, 2008.
- 2008: Application for Permit 3 to complete interior including air conditioning, exterior landscaping and hardscaping
- Sept. 17, 2009: Permit 2 is closed because the work is subsumed by Permit 3
- June 1, 2009: Permit 3 is issued
- June 6: Certificate of Occupancy is issued
- Aug. 24: Church offers to settle the case by paying $45,250. This offer is rejected by the city.
- Oct. 6: Chuch pays the fine in total, $413,500.