Jan 15, 2016

Frederick Co., Scientology-Backed Group at Odds

Mark Seagraves
NBC4 Washington
January 4, 2016

A plan to open a drug rehabilitation location in northern Frederick County is in the hands of a circuit court judge after the county council rejected a historical designation the proposed place for the rehab.

After the Frederick County Council voted 6-1 in June against granting historic designation to the Trout Run property, Social Betterment Properties International, a real estate branch of the Church of Scientology, filed an appeal in circuit court, asking a judge to overturn the council’s vote.

Trout Run is located in northern Frederick County, just south of Cunningham Falls State Park.

Attorneys for SBPI argued that the council was influenced by residents, who testified that Scientology was a “cult” and that Narconon has a troubled track record. Narconon is based on the discoveries and writings of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology religion.

The attorneys said the council members should have voted based on historic designation guidelines only. The Frederick County Council attorney argued that the council is not mandated to approve historic designations, it’s a legislative prerogative, and they are allowed to use their own discretion when voting.

“The hearing did not focus on who the applicant was,” said Sr. Assistant County Attorney Wendy Kearney. “That was not the decision the council used. The council was interested in the historic nature of the properties.”

In a statement, Jennifer Kneeland, an attorney for SBPI, argued the council’s prior decisions on other historical preservation cases showed the bias in this case against Narconon.

“It is clear from the record that the departure from the treatment that all prior historical preservation applicants were afforded, coupled with the clear, religious animus exhibited against petitioner, shines a light on the ‘Not in My Backyard’ mentality that improperly guided the council’s decision. Social Betterment Properties International owns the property and has always intended to preserve this beautiful, unique area for the county.”

Judge William R. Nicklas Jr. is expected to rule in 30 days. SBPI has asked the judge not to remand the case back to the county but to make a decision himself.


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