The fate of a Scientology-affiliated drug rehabilitation center outside Thurmont will go undetermined for at least one more month.
The Frederick County Council voted Tuesday night to delay a decision on the site, also known as Trout Run, for at least one month.
Council member M.C. Keegan-Ayer made the motion to allow the council to review new information about the site. At the council’s last meeting on the issue April 7, members voted to postpone their decision for two weeks.
The council is considering adding Trout Run to the county’s historic register. The Board of Zoning Appeals will allow the property owner to alter the site, which would not be permitted under current zoning restrictions — only if the owner acquires a historic preservation designation from the County Council.
Denis Superczynski, a county planner and member of the county’s Historic Preservation Commission, said at the Tuesday meeting that county staff received a “substantial amount of material” from people who wanted to register their opinions with the council.
Members of the public who spoke at the meeting ranged from concerned neighbors and Narconon drug rehabilitation program graduates to an environmentalist, a teacher and a substance abuse coach.
They spoke not only on the justification for a historic designation, but also on the preservation of the property, the owner’s intentions for the site and the effectiveness of Narconon’s drug treatment program.
After hearing over a dozen different opinions on the matter in an unscheduled public forum, representatives of the property owner and Narconon were allowed 20 minutes to speak.
According to Bruce Dean, a Linowes and Blocher attorney who is representing the property owner, an appeal period was open to those who disputed the use of the property as a drug rehabilitation center in October 2013.
Dean said the council needed only to consider the historic nature of the site, not its use. He asked the council to look to the opinion of the Historic Preservation Commission to guide their decision.
“The persons that are nominated and appointed by this county to determine whether a property is or is not historic are fully vetted,” he said.
Councilman Jerry Donald said he still does not think Trout Run deserves the historical designation because the site is not rare.
“On the same hill, just running through, you’ve got Misty Mount, Greentop, Camp David, Gambrill Tea Room, Mar-Lu-Ridge; Fort Ritchie had some of these. That’s on the same ridge, just going through this county and this state,” he said.
The details and proportions at Trout Run “differ significantly,” said Kate Kuranda, senior vice president at the Frederick firm R. Christopher Goodwin and Associates Inc.
“These private camps are a document of an aspect of early 20th-century history that I think is important on a local level,” she said.
Michael Proffitt, of Frederick-based Proffitt & Assoc. Architects, has been working with the property owner to develop a renovation plan for the site. He said the buildings at Trout Run have “extensive rot” as well as mold and water damage.
Dean said those buildings could not be repaired without the historic designation from the County Council, which he was hoping to have Tuesday, and approval from the Historic Preservation Commission.
“We have been asking the county since December to do this, and they delayed it and they delayed it and they delayed it,” Dean said.
When the time came for a vote on the matter Tuesday night, Keegan-Ayer moved to give the council time to digest the information presented by the property owner and their representatives.
Council members Kirby Delauter, Tony Chmelik and Billy Shreve voted to make the decision Tuesday night.
Council members Donald, Keegan-Ayer, Jessica Fitzwater and council President Bud Otis voted to postpone the decision.
The owner of the property is Social Betterment Properties International, the real estate arm of the Church of Scientology.
Leaders of the Narconon program, which uses rehabilitation methods developed by the Church of Scientology’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, want to open a “residential drug rehabilitation center” at Trout Run, on Catoctin Hollow Road.
The buildings would be renovated to allow 12 live-in patients to stay on the property. The site would feature five other beds for medical treatment and withdrawal and accommodate eight staff living on-site and eight staff living off-site.
The council has yet to determine when it will re-examine the issue. The record has been closed to public comment.