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Tracey McManus, Times Staff Writer

Tracey McManus

Tracey covers Clearwater government and general topics in the city. Before joining the Times in August 2015, she spent five years covering everything from education reform to animal welfare for The Augusta Chronicle in Georgia. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., she was raised in Palm City, Fla., and graduated from University of Florida in 2010 with degrees in journalism and Spanish.

Phone: 727-445-4151.

Email: tmcmanus@tampabay.com

Twitter: @TroMcManus

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  1. Updates to Clearwater's development rules brings skeptical response to sea level rise from vice mayor

    Blog

    During a discussion this week about updates to Clearwater's development rules dealing with sea level rise, Vice Mayor Hoyt Hamilton took a skeptical stance.

    The City Council passed the development updates unanimously. But Hamilton said he only voted to approve them because it was the right thing to do for the city - not because he buys-in to sea level rise predictions....

  2. Nearly $40 million in bed tax to fund five Pinellas County projects

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — Nearly $40 million in taxes paid by visitors in hotels, motels and other overnight rentals will help fund five major Pinellas County projects over the next three years.

    The County Commission on Tuesday approved $26 million for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium; $6 million for the Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement; $5.5 million for Ruth Eckerd Hall; $1.9 million for the Countryside Sports Complex; and $495,000 for the Eddie C. Moore Softball Complex....

    The Clearwater Marine Aquarium was the big winner in bed tax funding. Pinellas commissioners approved $26 million toward the $66 million expansion of the aquarium’s site on Island Estates.
  3. Latest hotel proposal on Clearwater Beach packs lots of rooms into a small space

    Growth

    CLEARWATER — The latest hotel proposal for Clearwater Beach aims to pile seven stories and 88 rooms on .59 acres of S Gulfview Boulevard.

    That's cramming nearly three times the number of units technically allowed on a property that size. But the Gulfview Lodging project is being made possible by the city's hotel density reserve, a pool of extra rooms created a decade ago developers can draw from to expand their projects....

    Gulfview Lodging has received an approval from the Clearwater City Council, a first step.
  4. Tampa Bay Partnership hires Clearwater Chamber executive

    Business

    CLEARWATER — Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce Vice President Zachary Thorn will join the Tampa Bay Partnership Aug. 21 as its director of advocacy.

    Leading government affairs for the Chamber since 2015, Thorn, 27, helped promote a 2016 referendum voters passed to allow for low-impact development on the bluff, the implementation of the city's park-and-ride program with Jolley Trolley, and other local initiatives....

    Zachary Thorn
  5. Clearwater to increase water, sewer rates starting Oct. 1

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — City water and sewer rates will increase by 6.25 percent Oct. 1 and by 4 percent every Oct. 1 from 2018 through 2021.

    The increase was needed to support $120 million in utility upgrades over the next 10 years, according to public utilities director David Porter.

    The change means a residential water and sewer bill for 3,000 gallons a month will increase from $47.91 this year to $50.90 in 2018. ...

  6. PETA inspects Dade City's Wild Things but welfare of tigers still in question

    Wildlife

    DADE CITY — Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns held federal marshals at the gates of her zoo for 30 minutes on Friday, delaying a court-ordered inspection by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

    Law enforcement was accompanying PETA at the instruction of a federal judge after Stearns prevented the group from entering her facility for the original court-mandated inspection July 20. The investigation is part of a lawsuit PETA filed in October, alleging Stearns' tiger cub petting business violates the federal Endangered Species Act by pulling cubs prematurely from mothers, forcing them to interact with the public and confining them to inadequate cages when they outgrow the photo-op stage....

    [Photo by Tracey McManus]
Federal marshals escorted PETA experts to conduct a court-ordered site inspection of Dade City's Wild Things on Friday. The inspection is part of a lawsuit PETA filed in October, alleging Kathy Stearns?€™ cub petting business violates the federal Endangered Species Act by pulling cubs prematurely from mothers, forcing them to interact with the public and confining them to destitute cages when they outgrow the photo-op stage.
  7. Clearwater's farmers market contract goes to bid, shakes current operator

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — When the city put the contract for its downtown farmers market out to bid for the first time in June, it inadvertently ruled out the current operator.

    Natalie Nagengast, who launched the Pierce Street Market on the waterfront in 2015, has run the business for two seven-month seasons, short of the 24 calendar months of experience outlined by the city.

    On July 27, the day the bid responses were due, Nagengast announced to her 46,000 Instagram and Facebook followers she was closing the popular market, stating "this summer, the city of Clearwater decided to put our waterfront market and our permits out for a public bid … and sadly our market did not qualify."...

    The Pierce Street Market on the Clearwater waterfront has been run for two seven-month seasons by Natalie Nagengast.
  8. Bealls and West Marine to join Pollo Tropical at redeveloped Kmart site in Clearwater

    Economic Development

    CLEARWATER — The long-vacant shopping plaza on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, formerly home to Kmart, is nearing completion, bringing a handful of well-known retailers to the area.

    Construction on the main section of the 10-acre property should be completed by fall, said Will Tolliver, managing director of retail for the Texas-based real estate investment company Leon Capital Group. Bealls department store and West Marine boating supplies have signed leases, and Leon Capital is completing negotiations with "a national pet goods store," Tolliver said....

    The long-vacant shopping plaza on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, formerly home to Kmart, is nearing completion. .JIM DAMASKE   |   Times
  9. Clearwater council approves wording of referendum on Coachman Park

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — The City Council last week approved the referendum wording voters will see on the Nov. 7 ballot.

    The question relates to Imagine Clearwater, a $55 million redevelopment plan that calls for converting Coachman Park into a garden and relocating its concert band shell to a new, 4-acre open green space, what is now the large parking lot just south of Coachman; an estuary under the Memorial Causeway; a half-mile Bluff Walk with shaded paths, gardens and terraces; and a plaza with water features and event space at the corner of Cleveland Street and Osceola Avenue....

  10. Is cuddling tiger cubs conservation? Experts warn it leads to too many tigers languishing in cages

    Wildlife

    DADE CITY — A lifelong animal lover, Lisa Graham was intrigued when she saw photos on social media of friends cuddling and petting baby tigers at zoos.

    So she made a trip from Lutz for her daughter's 11th birthday to Dade City's Wild Things, wondering what it would feel like that close to a tiger.

    But when the Wild Things volunteer walked to their picnic table cradling a cub, barely old enough to stand, her excitement turned to pity....

    Founder Carole Baskin drives a golf cart at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times

  11. Clearwater residents avoid tax rate increase for ninth year in row

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — Residents will avoid a rate hike on their property taxes for the ninth year in a row as taxable values continue to recover from recession levels, padding city coffers.

    Property taxes are projected to bring in $50.4 million in fiscal year 2017-18, nearly $4 million more than last year, according to budget manager Kayleen Kastel.

    The proposed $567 million budget for fiscal year 2018 is 21 percent larger than last year, mostly because the city has planned to spend almost double on capital improvement projects. ...

    Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos says the city must be prepared.
  12. Dade City's Wild Things blocks PETA officials at gates for court-ordered site inspection

    Wildlife

    Times Staff Writer

    DADE CITY — Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show.

    The inspection was granted by a federal judge so PETA experts could observe the care and housing of 22 tigers on the property. PETA sued Wild Things in October, alleging its tiger cub encounter business, in which visitors can pay to cuddle or swim with weeks-old cubs, violates the Endangered Species Act....

    Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show. This comes four days after 19 Wild Things tigers arrived at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma. A judge had granted an emergency injunction July 14, ordering Stearns not remove any tigers pending the upcoming PETA inspection. Photo from Facebook page of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma.
  13. Dade City's Wild Things moves tigers to Oklahoma during court battle with PETA

    Wildlife

    DADE CITY — On Friday, a federal judge ordered Dade City's Wild Things not to remove or relocate any of its 22 tigers pending an ongoing legal battle with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

    By Sunday, 19 of the Dade City tigers pulled into the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma after a 1,200-mile journey on a cattle truck.

    The move appears to be a reaction to a July 12 ruling by a judge allowing PETA officials to inspect the facility, owned by Kathy Stearns, and observe the tigers' care and housing. The judge scheduled the site inspection for Thursday....

    Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park owner Joe Maldonado confirmed 19 Wild Things tigers arrived at his facility Sunday.
  14. Pinellas program for endangered sea turtles in disarray

    Wildlife

    CLEARWATER — Pinellas County's program to protect sea turtle nests has fallen into disarray, creating what state wildlife officials call an unprecedented situation.

    The lone biologist licensed to oversee the marking of sea turtle nests on 22 miles of Pinellas County beaches was fired last month by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

    Laura Wright says she's still trying to do the job anyway....

    A sea turtle nest on Indian Rocks Beach is staked off to protect the eggs. From May to October, trained volunteers go out early in the morning to look for turtle nests.
  15. Calling Scientology a dangerous 'cult,' Calvary Baptist Church pastor intended to help A&E film episode for Leah Remini series

    Special Topics

    CLEARWATER — In an unprecedented public condemnation by a local religious organization about the Church of Scientology, Calvary Baptist Church Pastor Willy Rice declared Wednesday that the "community has been tormented by this Goliath for far too long."

    "Someone has to pick up a rock and a slingshot and trust God with the results," Rice wrote in a blog post that has since been removed from the Calvary website. "We believe we are in a unique position in this community and should try to help."...

    Pastor Willy Rice referred to David and Goliath when blogging about Scientology’s presence.