Tampa, Florida - The Cuban Club in Ybor City is appealing a city of Tampa zoning ruling that allowed the Church of Scientology to buy historic Ybor Square.
Although the zoning code says no religious places of assembly can be zoned in the entertainment district of Ybor, the zoning department gave the Church the go ahead to buy the building.
City Council member Charlie Miranda says it doesn't make sense to have rules and then not follow them. However, the city says it had no other choice than to grant approval.
When we first talked to zoning administrator Catherine Coyle, she said it was going to be used as an office building. However when we pointed out the Church told the city it would use the building for Sunday Services and other religious activity, Coyle told us it was considered an accessory religious use. But that is also prohibited in the entertainment district.
Cuban Club member Patrick Manteiga, who publishes the weekly La Gaceta, says he doesn't understand why the zoning department fast-tracked the issue without doing more investigation.
Manteiga is negotiating with the Church to deal with issues that concern many in Ybor City. He says the district wants assurances the Church won't expand, will allow people to tour the historic building, work on parking issues and not enforce the 1,000-foot separation between bars and churches. A spokesman for the Church says it has no problem agreeing to those conditions.
Meantime the city says because of the Religious Land Use Act passed in 2000, it can't discriminate against a religious organization. However, city attorney Chip Fletcher admits the current zoning code is flawed and has directed the department to make changes.
Meantime, because the Church doesn't have to pay property taxes, the city will lose about $75,000 a year.