LOS ANGELES – A public hearing on a planned drug and alcohol treatment center with ties to the Church of Scientology was postponed Tuesday over concerns about the center’s rural location in upper Bouquet Canyon.
A proposal to establish a Narconon center came before the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and drew a crowd of about 500.
Concerns about traffic, fire and safety, and flood control remanded plans back to the Regional Planning Commission, which had approved the project in March. Tuesday’s hearing was called by Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who received complaints after the commission’s approval.
There is no date set yet for its return to the board.
Narconon International aims to open a 66-bed facility nearly Leona Valley on 30.4 acres formerly used for a boarding school.
Narconon President Clark Carr said that if the center had been approved Tuesday, work would have begun immediately. Renovations are expected to take at least six months.
Yet Carr supported the county’s efforts toward improvements.
�We’re here for the long haul,� Carr said.
The facility is designed to treat up to 66 adults, whose average stay would be three to four months. Narconon plans no new buildings on the land, which borders the Angeles National Forest, but will add parking.
Treatment used in the program, such as sweating out toxins, has been questioned by critics, who charge that the facility is a front to lure people into the Church of Scientology. The treatment program began about 40 years ago and is based on the principles of a book by L. Ron Hubbard, the late founder of the Church of Scientology.
When asked of those criticisms, Carr called them incorrect and irrelevant. He said there was no religious indoctrination in the program.
�It’s hard enough work to get someone off heroin or alcohol without getting into the religious issues,� he said.
Word of the alcohol and drug rehabilitation center planned on Bouquet Canyon Road had worried some Leona Valley residents, who sent a letter to the county Planning Commission last winter with concerns the facility would disrupt the rural community.
Some of those residents arrived at Tuesday’s hearing to testify. Among them was Jan Powell, a Leona Valley Town Council member. She helped organize a community meeting at which residents could meet with Narconon representatives and learn about the proposed center.
– Justice Anderson, Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia, quoted at What judges have to say about Scientology
Powell said she was open-minded at first and wanted to know more about Narconon. Initially representatives told her the organization was not connected with the Church of Scientology, but later they told her there was a relationship. That’s when she changed her mind.
�It’s not that they’re associated with Scientology,� she said. �It’s the fact that they were deceitful to me.�
Vance Kirkpatrick, a former sheriff’s deputy, also came to the hearing. The Leona Valley resident said the location for the treatment center is too remote for quick responses from police or firefighters in case of emergencies.
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