Friday, September 21, 2018
News Roundup

Spring Hill drug rehab center will have to go through county to expand, judge rules

BROOKSVILLE — A federal judge has denied a request by the operator of a Spring Hill drug rehabilitation center to force Hernando County to give the center a permit to expand.

With the denial, U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore closed the case filed against the county in 2011 by Toucan Partners LLC, the owner of the property, and Narconon Spring Hill Inc., the operator of the program.

Suncoast Rehabilitation Center on Cessna Drive in Spring Hill announced a month ago plans to expand from 27 to 60 beds. According to a news release, a larger facility would help meet the increased demand for services under the federal Affordable Care Act.

With the judge's ruling, the owner of the center will have to go back through the county Planning and Zoning Commission to argue for the expansion. No application for a special use permit has been received by the county, said Ron Pianta, assistant administrator for planning and development.

Toucan Partners sought to expand from 22 to 54 beds in 2009. But residents surrounding the 3-acre parcel were adamant that a drug rehab center was not compatible with their neighborhood.

The Planning and Zoning Commission approved the permit, but it was overturned several weeks later by the County Commission. Undaunted, the center sued the county first in circuit court, then in federal court.

Earlier this year, a jury found Hernando County guilty of intentional discrimination against Narconon under the federal Fair Housing Act.

Other counts of the federal suit were settled in the county's favor, and, while Toucan Partners and Narconon sought $6.24 million in damages, the jury awarded just $74,000 and attorney's fees to Narconon. The jury awarded nothing to Toucan Partners.

The amount of attorney's fees has not yet been determined.

After the verdict, Narconon filed a motion for an injunction to force the county to approve the permit allowing the expansion.

But the judge decided that "Narconon has not demonstrated a substantial likelihood that the county will continue to act in a discriminatory manner."

The judge also noted that it was Narconon, which won a portion of what it sought in the lawsuit, seeking the injunction; it had been the property owner — Toucan Partners — that had sought the original permit, and Toucan lost its claims in the lawsuit.

Narconon's attorney, Ethan Loeb, did not return a call or an email seeking comment on the outcome.

Narconon is a drug rehabilitation program based on the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, and is financially supported by Scientologists.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

Comments
How do you really feel, Carlos Gomez?

How do you really feel, Carlos Gomez?

Rays veteran OF Carlos Gomez made his feelings about being ejected from Thursday's game by home plate umpire Andy Fletcher quite clear in a series of Twitter posts and a live video.Gomez was in the dugout complaining about being called out on strikes...
Updated: 4 hours ago
How to kill playoff chances? Rays blow six-run lead in 9th, lose 9-8 to Jays

How to kill playoff chances? Rays blow six-run lead in 9th, lose 9-8 to Jays

TORONTO — The Rays had done so much right in making their entertaining, exciting and endearing September run to make it a race for the final American League playoff spot.But it was what they couldn't do Thursday night, get the final three outs ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Thursday’s Rays-Blue Jays game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Thursday’s Rays-Blue Jays game

As if the Rays haven't been innovative enough — with relievers starting and starters relieving, with pitchers playing infield spots and infielders playing the outfield — Thursday they unveiled a four-man outfield.Thursday was another exam...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Carrollwood Day-Admiral Farragut postponed until Oct. 4

ST. PETERSBURG — The prep football game between Admiral Farragut and Carrolllwood Day was suspended with four minutes remaining in the second quarter and the Blue Jackets holding a 14-6 lead. The game will be resumed on Oct. 4.Admiral Farragut ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays journal: Austin Meadows gets called up, but there’s nowhere to put him

Rays journal: Austin Meadows gets called up, but there’s nowhere to put him

TORONTO — After taking his first look at OF Austin Meadows in Rays colors, manager Kevin Cash said the promising prospect is a "huge part" of their future. But he also acknowledged that they might not get much of a look at that future over the ...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Updated: 6 hours ago

High school scoreboard for Thursday, September 20

Thursday’s scoreboardVolleyballSt. Petersburg Catholic d. Cambridge Christian 25-21, 25-13, 25-8
Updated: 6 hours ago
Bucs DT Vita Vea, CB Brent Grimes return to practice, could play vs. Steelers

Bucs DT Vita Vea, CB Brent Grimes return to practice, could play vs. Steelers

TAMPA — For the first time in seven weeks, Vita Vea played football Thursday.At least it looked like the rookie defensive tackle was playing football when he walked to the Bucs' practice field wearing a helmet and full pads and took a three-poi...
Updated: 6 hours ago
St. Pete approves biggest budget in city history: $717 million

St. Pete approves biggest budget in city history: $717 million

ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council blessed the largest budget in city history on Thursday night, adopting a $717 million budget that starts Oct. 1.The 2019 budget is about $200 million more than the current budget. That massive increase was driven by ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Confederate group banned from Temple Terrace country club, may take legal action

Confederate group banned from Temple Terrace country club, may take legal action

TEMPLE TERRACE — After complaints from city residents, the Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club has notified the City Council that it will not rent space again to the Sons of Confederate Veterans for its annual banquet.The country clubȁ...
Updated: 7 hours ago