The owner of a controversial holistic health center in Frederick is heading for a showdown with the county zoning appeals board, which recently ordered him to close down an associated private school that he says he has operated from his home for the past six years.
Dr. Nicola M. Tauraso, a pediatrician who operates The Gotach Center for Health, said he would appeal the board's decision to the county Circuit Court.
Tauraso's 13 1/2-acre property borders the Clover Hill subdivision in the northern part of the city. County officials received letters from 527 residents there who complained about noise and traffic congestion caused by the holistic health center and school that was incorporated there four years ago.
Tauraso applied in January for an exception to build three single-family dwellings on his property for the school. But this week, the county ruled the proposed use "was not in harmony with the purpose and intent . . . of the county's comprehensive plan."
Meanwhile, the Clover Hill residents opposed the doctor's project also on grounds that the school would devalue real estate property by as much as $15,000. They also believed Tauraso "had been operating a business in contravention of county zoning ordinances that had been made in the 1970s," said Seymour B. Stern, an attorney representing the Clover Hill Civic Association.
But Tauraso said he believed "the county board has erred" and he intended to appeal the board's decision to the Frederick County Circuit Court. At a press conference at his home last Thursday, Tauraso said he would ask his attorney to seek a "restraining order" preventing the county from shutting down the school.
Frederick County zoning administrator Frederick J. Lowndes notified Tauraso Thursday that "all operations at the Gotach Center must cease by August 12."
Lowndes said "failure to comply with the zoning ordinance will result in fines of $100 a day." But the official also said Tauraso has 30 days to appeal the board's decision to the county Circuit Court.
Orginally, Tauraso's property had been zoned R1, which allowed him to operate a pediatrician's office from his home with two full-time employes, two part-time employes and parking for eight cars.
But Jan. 24, l977, the land was rezoned to R3, which does not permit Tauraso to operate a school there. Lowndes also said that "Tauraso has exceeded zoning regulations by having 14 employes" at the nonprofit Gotach Center, which also has offices to distribute books and pamphlets.
Tauraso asserts that most of the residents oppose the center because "they do not understand what holistic health actually is."
According to Tauraso, "Holistic health is a state of well-being in which an individual's body, mind, emotions and spirit are in tune with the natural, cosmic and social environment."
Tauraso runs a weekly nutrition and meditation program at the center, which is also his home, for 12 to 15 hyperactive, dyslexic and learning-disabled students aged 5 to 19. He says his school teaches "mental self-regulation" by helping people learn to use their "imagination and visualization and believing in oneself . . . to develop an attitude of peace, harmony, understanding, tolerance and love with our inner self and others."
But Charles R. Wienke, a Clover Hill resident, said, "We're not against holistic medicine itself. We are against a lot of noisy people over there and traffic congestion and strangers running around our neighborhood."
Wienke said the police were called to Tauraso's property June 29 after the doctor's horses got loose and stopped traffic. Then on July 4, Clover Hill residents called the state police about a large fireworks display on the Tauraso property.
The 49-year-old pediatrician denied his school was noisy and said his property is bordered "by a 30-foot buffer of pine trees which actually protects us from the noise coming from the community." He said the board had ignored "expert testimony" from two civil engineers who told the board that only 50 cars would travel to the Gotach Center each day, while 90 cars a day travel there now.
According to the Maryland State Board of Medical Examiners office in Baltimore, Tauraso is a licensed pediatrician who graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1960. He did his clinical training at Children's Hospital in the District of Columbia and from 1963 to 1968 was a medical research scientist at the National Institutes of Health, studying infectious diseases.
Tauraso says he began a pediatric practice on his property in 1972. But he founded the center in 1978 after "holistic medicine" cured him of migraine headaches through "meditation and deep spiritual awareness."
Tauraso says that he still practices pediatric medicine in Frederick County and is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, but he has not been a member of the Frederick County Medical Society since 1977.
He also travels across the country lecturing to nurses about nutrition for their own patients and recently gave lectures in which he stated that "milk is the most prominent cause of bed-wetting." He also believes that milk causes the body to produce mucous and thus may contribute to upper respiratory infections in children.