Proposed Drug Rehab Facility Causes Stir

Source: Daily News
Date: January 4, 2006

Plans for 30.4-acre site scare some in region

A Scientology-based treatment facility hopes to soon open shop on Bouquet Canyon Road to treat adults with drug and alcohol addictions.

Representatives from Narconon Southern California are scheduled to appear today before the county's Regional Planning Commission for a permit to develop the facility on the 30.4-acre site, once home to a children's boarding school.

The Leona Valley Town Council wants the application denied.

In a letter sent last month to the commission, the community group cited concerns about the impact the center would have on the environment and local welfare.

Jim Davis, a former president of the council, said some became scared of what the treatment center could bring to the area, and that only a small percentage supported it. Davis was not involved with the letter.

"I think it was a fear factor," Davis said. "And I think the Scientology scared people, which was sad."

Plans for the property include converting and upgrading 11 existing buildings into three dormitories, kitchen and dining area, classrooms, staff facilities, a 29-vehicle parking lot and swimming pool, according to a Regional Planning Commission's staff report.

The facility, with about 11 employees, would be designed to treat up to 66 adults, whose average stay would be three to four months.

Traffic to the area would be minimal from the proposed facility at 36491 Bouquet Canyon Road, according to the report, because clients will not be allowed to have cars. Instead they will be transported by van.

In addition, visitors would be discouraged, so as not to interfere with treatment. If the application gets the nod from commissioners, the staff has recommended 10 years of use under the permit. The proposed facility is compatible with zoning for the area on Bouquet Canyon Road and with the permit, according to the staff report.

The Narconon program was started in 1966 by William Benitez, an inmate in Arizona State Prison, who applied principles from a book by L. Ron Hubbard to his heroin addiction. Today there are Narconon rehabilitation and education centers around the world, according to the nonprofit's Web site.

The facility is also asking for permission to remove two oak trees from the property. One has fallen down, and the other is decaying and endangers a nearby building.

Catherine L. Savage, a Narconon Southern California representative, did not return phone calls for comment.

James Bell, a planner with the Regional Planning Commission, referred calls to a supervisor who is out of the office until Wednesday when the hearing takes place.

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