Gold Meritorious Patron
Word is getting around. Here is another article on the most recent knock back.
The property: The church bought it before the council's decision.
The property: The church bought it before the council's decision. Photo: Supplied
Wyong Shire Council has rejected a Church of Scientology proposal for a controversial drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in the Yarramalong Valley in the central coast hinterland.
A church offshoot, the Association for Better Living and Education, lodged a development application last year but did not bother to await Wyong's decision, outlaying $3.8 million on February 7 to buy the 30-hectare Yarramalong property owned by Albert Bertini, a financially troubled millionaire who left Sydney two years ago.
ABLE planned to use the property to house 20 participants in a controversial substance abuse treatment program, Narconon, that has been associated with deaths in the US and Europe. Several governments have forced the closure of its centres.
Yarramalong has been an upmarket weekender spot for generations of the rich and powerful. John Laws, John Singleton and the late Neville Wran have called it a home away from home.
Residents became alarmed when word of the proposed drug rehab centre became public.
The council rejected the application after it was found to be incompatible with land zonings and regulations.
Mayor Doug Eaton said in a statement that council staff had considered the proposal in accordance with the Wyong Local Environmental Plan and determined it represented unacceptable risks to both life and property, given the flood-affected nature of the site.
Cr Eaton said that while he recognised the value of providing a range of treatment options for drug and alcohol addictions, this particular development was not in the public interest.
"I'm pleased with the outcome given the strong community opposition to the proposal," he said. "Having seen the matter considered in accordance with our planning regulations, I think it's clear their opposition was well-founded. It simply isn't an appropriate use for this site."
The chairman of the Yarramalong Community Action Group, Ron Lee, said locals were pleased with the outcome but it did not necessarily mean the matter was closed.
In its determination, the council appeared to leave a door open, noting that ABLE had submitted insufficient information with the application, "making it difficult to fully assess the social impact, the likely effect on the drinking water catchment, or satisfy how water and sewerage would be treated".
"We should not be complacent that this is the end of the matter," Mr Lee said.
"Incredibly the Church of Scientology purchased the property before the council was able to make a ruling on their development application and they are therefore not going to go away. It is very difficult to imagine what sort of alternative use the Scientology organisation might be able to make of the property and remain within the very tight planning guidelines."
ABLE spokesman Ralph Harris had not replied to requests for an interview by the time of posting.
It was the second time in two months that ABLE proposals for a rehab centre have been rejected.
In Victoria on March 11, amid massive local opposition fanned by the police reports, Yarra Ranges Shire councillors voted unanimously 8-0 to reject ABLE's planning application to open a rehabilitation centre in the township of Warburton.