Circuit Court judge sends Trout Run matter back to County Council

After the County Council voted last June to deny the request of Social Betterment Properties International (SBPI) to have the Trout Run/Richey Lodge property placed on the Frederick County Register of Historic Places, SBPI appealed the decision to the Circuit Court. A hearing was held on January 4, and yesterday Judge Nicklas issued an opinion and remanded the case back to the County Council.

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Briefly, it is the judge’s opinion that since the County Council held hearings on this matter, they were acting in a quasi-judicial capacity. Acting in this capacity, they are required to issue a final decision that includes findings of fact and conclusions of law that support their decision, which the judge stated they did not provide.

Judge Nicklas concluded his opinion with “As no such final decision was issued, this Court cannot properly perform its function of reviewing the County’s denial of Petitioner’s application. Nor can this Court evaluate Petitioner’s claim of religious discrimination without the specific factual findings required here. Therefore, this matter must be remanded to the Frederick County Council for issuance of a final decision including specific findings of fact and conclusions of law in denying Petitioner’s application to place the Trout Run/Richey Lodge property on the Frederick County Register of historic places.”

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Brief Background: Social Betterment Properties International, the real estate arm of the Church of Scientology purchased the Trout Run property in September of 1013 with the intention of opening a Narconon drug treatment and rehabilitation facility. Narconon is a program of the Church of Scientology that uses methods based on the writings of the church’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, as their primary treatment methodology.

The Trout Run property is zoned as Resource Conservation, and a drug treatment facility is not an allowed use in thats zone (in fact, a drug treatment facility is not listed on the County’s Land Use Table). A “Group Home Large” may be allowed as a “Special Exception,” however, if the property is first placed on the Frederick County Register of Historic Places. SBPI, with their facility designated as a “Group Home Large,” applied with the Fredrick County Historic Preservation Commission (FCHPC) to have the property placed on the Register. The FCHPC recommended placement of the property on the register, but the County Council denied the application. Thus the appeal.

Click HERE or on the image below to open/download the Circuit Court finding as a 4.4MB pdf file.

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Also see:

Frederick News Post
Trout Run designation case will go back to County Council for explanation of vote
January 14, 2015 (online) January 15, 2015 (in print)
By Danielle E. Gaines

Frederick News Post
Frederick County files response in Trout Run case
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
By Danielle E. Gaines

Frederick News Post
Trout Run owner asks judge to reverse Frederick County decision about historic designation
Monday, October 26, 2015
By Jen Fifield

Washington Post
Frederick Council rejects historic designation for Trout Run, a blow for a Scientology-backed drug rehab
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
By Michael S. Rosenwald and Jacob Bogage

Frederick News Post
Frederick County Council votes against giving Trout Run historic designation
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
By Jen Fifield

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TIMELINE

April 8, 2013 State of Maryland (DNR) purchases 423 acres of Trout Run (for $1,491,500.00), and West Coast Properties Investment Inc (WCPI) serves as contract purchaser for unnamed non-profit.

NOTE: The property now owned by “Social Betterment Properties International” is actually two parcels, one of 26.8 acres remainder of parcel 2 map 24 and one of 13.1 acres, remainder of parcel 38, map 25.

May 13, 2013 Purchase Agreement between West Coast Properties Investment Inc (WCPI) and Trout Run, LLC

July 14, 2013 HPC meeting at which county planner Denis Superczynski suggested adding the 1970 house on the 13.1 acre parcel, as well as the 1960 lodge on the 26.8 acre parcel to the Frederick County Register of Historic Places, thereby changing the “date of significance from the 1940’s to 1960.

August 5, 2013, West Coast Properties Investment Inc, as contract purchaser, signed the Frederick County Nomination for the 40 acres

August 14, 2013 Frederick County Historic Preservation Commission affirms its Determination of Eligibility for the property.

August 14, 2013 Letter from the HPC to Alan Duke, Chair of the Frederick County Board of Zoning Appeals

August 22, 2013 Frederick County Board of Zoning Appeals meeting where a Special Exception to convert the 40-acre site into a group home facility was approved. SE only sites parcel 38.

September 4, 2013 Deed was filed between Social Betterment and Trout Run LLC

October 1, 2013 Frederick County Board of Zoning Appeals signs Finding and Decisions for group home to West Coast Properties Investment Inc, although property belonged to Social Betterment Properties International and no revised application or assigned representation were provided from Social Betterment Properties International.

November 18, 2014 Transmittal from R. Christopher Goodwin and Associates, Inc to county planner Denis Superczynski of the Nomination Form and Supporting Documentation for Inclusion in the Frederick County Register of Historic Place

December 3, 2014 HPC held a public meeting to consider two items related to 1) the re-certification of the Determination of Eligibility (DOE 14-03) previously granted in August 2013 (DOE 13-01), since over a year had passed in the interim period; and 2)//www.fredertion seeking to list the Trout Run property on the County Register (CR 14-03). The HPC re-certified the Determination of Eligibility for the 40-acre Trout Run site, including the expanded period of significance through 1970. The HPC also recommended that the County Executive/County Council list the Trout Run site on the Frederick County Register of Historic Places.

February 13, 2015 Memo from county planner Denis Superczynski to the Office of the County Executive regarding the “Scheduling of Public Hearing/Approval Process — Trout Run (Richey Lodge) #CR-14-03 County Register Listing

February 16, 2015 Staff Report sent to the Office of the County Executive

April 7, 2015 County Council public hearing “To Consider Designation of ‘Trout Run (Richey Lodge’ located at 12929 Catoctin Hollow Road, as a Listed Site on the Frederick County Register of Historic Places” RECORD CLOSED

April 21, 2015 County Council public meeting/hearing (continued from

June 2, 2015 County Council public meeting (continued from April 21, 2015) “To Consider Designation of ‘Trout Run (Richey Lodge’ located at 12929 Catoctin Hollow Road, as a Listed Site on the Frederick County Register of Historic Places” County Council voted 6-1 against placing Trout Run on the Frederick County Register of Historic Places.

October 21, 2015 Social Betterment Properties International (a Church of Scientology-affiliated company) filed a memo in Circuit Court to support a complaint it filed in July, asking the court to reverse the county council’s June 2nd vote to not place the 40-acre Trout Run on the Frederick County Register of Historic Places.

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