Attorney: Destin’s hands are tied on Narconon in the neighborhood

Destin can’t stop Narconon Gulf Coast from opening a “community residential home” for recovering addicts as long as the home abides by Florida law, the city’s land-use attorney says.

“The state has made a decision to encourage the treatment of individuals … in a community homelike setting,” Land Use Attorney Scott Shirley told the City Council Monday, and that pre-empts the city’s zoning and even homeowner association covenants.

It wasn’t what the council wanted to hear.

“If I put myself in the place of a homeowner,” Councilor Jim Wood said, “it would bug me a lot that neither my local elected officials or homeowners association could do anything about this.”

Narconon is a national drug-treatment program based on the principles of L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology. Randy and Debbie Ross of Narconon Gulf Coast converted their Destin home into a 14-bed drug treatment center a few years ago. Debbie Ross told The Log that Narconon wants to open a smaller home for addicts who’ve completed the 30-day stay at the main center.

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Shirley replied that by requiring an annual business license, Narconon would have to show every year that it had kept up its state license, as other licensed professionals do. However, he said, the council could drop the business license requirement if it wished.

“I cannot debate whether or not the state law is correct,” Shirley said.

In response to further questions, Shirley said Code Enforcement could cite Narconon if the home had more than six residents, but the city couldn’t drug-test the residents or demand Narconon divulge the results of its own testing.

Councilor Jim Bagby said relying on Narconon to weed out active users was “like asking the fox, ‘Are the chickens OK?’ ‘Yeah, the chickens are fine.’ ”

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