Doors to a Scientology-based drug rehabilitation center are expected to open near Leona Valley after county planners gave conditional approval Wednesday for the facility in rustic Bouquet Canyon.
But first Narconon Southern California has to do more community outreach to the small community in the Leona Valley area about 10 miles from the proposed adult drug-and-alcohol center.
Such outreach was among conditions imposed Wednesday by the county’s Regional Planning Commission during a public hearing for a permit to develop the center on a 30.4-acre site. Commissioners voted unanimously in support of the permit, but their conditions must be met before operations can begin.
Sam Dea, supervising county regional planner, said Narconon Southern California was also asked to hold open houses and meet with the Leona Valley Town Council on a regular basis to provide information about the center to residents.
The rehabilitation center has been opposed by some residents of Leona Valley’s tightly knit agricultural community of about 1,000. Opponents fear the facility could jeopardize their small-town lifestyle and safety.
Because of residents’ concerns, the Leona Valley Town Council asked the commission in a December letter to reject the rehabilitation center’s application.
Wednesday’s nod from the commission had little effect on the council’s position about the center.
“My personal position doesn’t matter, but my position … is against it only because the community is against it,” said Mike Waters, council president.
Waters said that Catherine L. Savage, a representative from Narconon Southern California, attended a monthly meeting of the council last year and announced plans for the facility. He said there was little discussion then because the council had received no advance information.
Later, he said, residents were notified by letters in December that the county commission would hold a public hearing, and the letters gave details.
The community then had about a week to send written responses to planners, Waters said, so the council quickly drafted survey forms and dropped them in mailboxes. Asked for responses within two days, residents called for the council to oppose a permit for the facility at 36491 Bouquet Canyon Road.
No new buildings are planned for the facility on the canyon property that was once a children’s boarding school. Instead, the former school buildings will be converted into the treatment center housing up to 66 rehabilitation clients at a time, plus employees.
Plans for the property include three dormitories, a kitchen and dining area, classrooms, staff facilities, a 29-vehicle parking lot and a swimming pool, according to a commission staff report.
The parking parking lot must be repaired and the driveway improved under conditions imposed by the commission, Dea said. He said Narconon Southern California will have to fulfill all conditions before opening for business and then will need final approval from commissioners.
Savage is expected to attend the Leona Valley Town Council’s next meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 9. The council meets at the Leona Valley Improvement Association Community Building, 8367 Elizabeth Lake Road.
Savage did not return phone calls for comment.
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