A Church of Scientology-affiliated company that proposed a substance abuse treatment center near Thurmont has alleged in court papers that the Frederick County Council improperly thwarted its plan.
Social Betterment Properties International filed a memo in Circuit Court on Wednesday to support a complaint it filed in July. The company is asking the court to reverse the council’s June 2 vote to not place the 40-acre camp property in the Catoctin Mountains on the county’s Register of Historic Places.
The Narconon treatment center can open there only if the property is listed on the historic register. Had the council voted to place the property on the register, the county would have allowed the center to operate as a group home under a special exception for historic properties.
The council voted against the historic designation after hearing hours of public comment in three hearings on the topic. Dozens of people told the council that the Narconon center and its practices associated with Scientology should not be allowed in the county.
The memo filed in court states that the council’s decision to deny the request was “arbitrary, capricious, and not based on substantial evidence.”
The council considered evidence that contained “nothing more than irrelevant and discriminatory testimony about the petitioner’s relationship with the Church of Scientology, gossip and rumors about the Church of Scientology’s religious beliefs, and unsubstantiated claims about the effectiveness of the Narconon drug and alcohol rehabilitation program,” it states.
The council did not support its claim with substantial evidence and did not rebut testimony from experts who said that the property met the criteria for historic designation, the memo states. The council also considered new evidence after the record was closed, it states.
But several residents provided evidence to the council about why they felt the property did not meet the historic designation criteria.
That included Chuck Farmer, of Frederick, who had worked on the site and was familiar with the materials used in construction. Farmer said on Monday that he felt the council made the right decision.
“I feel they sincerely looked at all the facts put forward and made a decision,” Farmer said.
County attorney John Mathias said the county will file a memo within 30 days explaining why the county’s decision should be upheld. Mathias could not comment further on Monday, as he was not in the office, but previously, he has said it was well within the council’s discretion to decide not to place the property on the historic register.
Under county law, the property owner has the burden of convincing the council that the property should be on the register, he said.
Narconon is confident that its appeal will succeed, said Bruce Dean, who is representing Social Betterment Properties.
“They are continuing to pursue this appeal so they can restore this historic property and start to offer much needed drug rehabilitation services to addicts in need of rehabilitation,” Dean wrote in an email.