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Suncoast Rehabilitation Center to relocate to Clearwater after settlement

Published Dec. 4, 2014

SPRING HILL — After winning a nearly $2 million settlement from Hernando County over a botched land use decision five years ago, the Church of Scientology-affiliated Suncoast Rehabilitation Center has announced plans to move from Spring Hill to a new, larger facility under construction in Clearwater.

The new facility, which is expected to be ready next year, will offer 35,000 square feet for treatment of patients with addictions, compared with 5,000 square feet at the current facility off Cessna Drive.

A recently issued news release notes that, although illicit drug use is increasing in the country, many Americans have not sought treatment for their addictions. Providing a larger facility will "be an effort towards fixing this discrepancy,'' according to the release.

The new facility will have room for up to 60 beds, compared with the current 27. Additionally, the new building will be large enough to offer all elements of the treatment program in a single location, something not possible at the Spring Hill facility. A commercial kitchen is also planned.

"We are delighted that Suncoast Rehab is expanding, as it means more people in need of treatment will be able to receive the help they deserve,'' said Tammy Strickling, the center's executive director. "Everyone should have a chance to reclaim their lives and return to being functioning members of society.''

Before relocating, the rehabilitation center plans to donate a room full of furniture to local nonprofits. Anyone interested can email the center at community@ suncoastrehabcenter.com.

What will happen with the existing facility on Cessna Drive is unclear. Several months ago, individuals approached the county planning and development staff regarding a move to the site; it would be expanded, using the permission originally given by the Hernando Planning and Zoning Commission.

After the planning commission granted permission, the County Commission overturned the approval, landing the county in federal court. A jury concluded that the county had discriminated against the facility, but then awarded just $74,490 in damages. Narconon, which operates the program at Suncoast Rehabilitation, sought and was granted a new trial, but the county and Narconon attorneys instead brought forward a mediated settlement whereby the county would pay $1.97 million and the County Commission action to deny was overturned.

Although the old permission allowing the expansion stands, county officials told the Times there is not any current applicant in county records formally seeking to take over or expand the existing site.

Public property records show the site is still owned by Toucan Partners LLC of Clearwater. Narconon, the program operator, is funded by and affiliated with the Church of Scientology.

Contact Barbara Behrendt at bbehrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.

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