Scientology Building Could Face Costly Delay

Source: St. Petersburg Times
Date: October 29, 1993

The Church of Scientology's planned $24-million Super Power building could be delayed by six to 18 months if state planners decide it requires a special review aimed at large regional developments.

Such a review, called a Development of Regional Impact study, would culminate in a vote by the Clearwater City Commission, which has battled Scientology in court over the years.

It also could cost Scientology tens of thousands of dollars, planners said.

The Super Power project has been delayed several times since it first was announced in March 1991. The latest projected date for beginning construction is March.

After Clearwater development officials met with Scientology leaders about the Super Power project, they began to look at the church's holdings downtown as a whole, said Scott Shuford, Clearwater's director of central permitting.

"Our research indicated that there is a very real possibility that the DRI requirements would extend to this project," Shuford wrote to the Church of Scientology's Flag Service Organization earlier this week.

Although the Super Power building may fall below the state's DRI threshold, adding it to Scientology's downtown facilities could form a development large enough to trigger a DRI review, Shuford said.

Tim Butts, DRI coordinator for the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, said a review could take as little as six months because the development is in a heavily urbanized area.

Scientology spokesman Richard Haworth said Thursday afternoon that he wasn't sure of the impact of the DRI debate or whether church officials will agree to go through the review.

It is up to the state Department of Community Affairs to decide whether Scientology must go through the DRI process. Neither the city nor Scientology has asked for such a ruling.

Traditionally, DRI's have been used to study such mega-developments as the Lansbrook residential project in East Lake and the Rubin ICOT Center office park off Ulmerton Road. A DRI study looks at a development's impact on roads, sewer services, water supplies and other municipal services.

The Super Power building is planned for the former Grey Moss Inn site at 215 S Fort Harrison Ave., across the street from the former Fort Harrison Hotel. It would be a domed structure, six stories tall and accompanied by a 2,500-seat auditorium.

The building, which Scientology calls the Flag Service Organization Technical Delivery Building, is the largest part of Scientology's $38-million expansion and renovation plans in Clearwater, its international spiritual headquarters.

The building would be the only place in the world Scientologists could receive Super Power training and counseling, a new and secret course that is part of Scientology's complex Total Bridge to Freedom. The building would feature 175 auditing rooms, 19 larger classrooms and a Scientology bookstore.

Super Power was developed in 1978 by L. Ron Hubbard, the late science fiction author whose self-help writings form the scriptures of Scientology. Super Power remains confidential to all but a small percentage of Scientologists.

A Gala Celebration Dinner/Show is planned for Saturday to raise money for the building. The fund-raiser features actor Michael Fairman as host, as well as an "all-star show" that will be broadcast from Scientology's celebrity center in Los Angeles.

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