Narconon loses bid to buy property in Hockley Village

Amid mounting concerns over Narconon’s proposal, the sellers chose a “white knight” offer.

The Toronto Star/September 9, 2013

By Rachel Mendleson

Narconon has lost its controversial bid to buy the picturesque estate of late Conservative MP Donald Blenkarn and turn it into a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre.

The Blenkarn family has chosen to sell the Hockley Village property to an area resident, according to Bill Schoenhardt, who is handling the sale on behalf of his sister-in-law, Marguerite Blenkarn.

Schoenhardt said the family received a counter-offer from Narconon, but opted instead for a so-called “white knight” bid from within the community, which is located just east of Orangeville.

“You look at the finances, you look at the closing date, you look at the conditions and you look at the total environment — the social footprint — and the offer we accepted won out on every account,” he said.

The deal was finalized amid mounting concern among residents about Narconon’s drug-free withdrawal program and its ties to the Church of Scientology.

In an email to the Star, Narconon International president Clark Carr said it would “not be appropriate to comment” on the sale, as it “is presently being handled by our real estate professionals.”

“Narconon is very interested in opening a facility in Canada and we are continuing to explore opportunities to do so,” Carr said.

Carr has previously lauded the benefits of Narconon’s methods, and denied allegations that the program, which includes detoxifying sauna sessions and high doses of vitamins, is unsafe.

Narconon is rooted in the religious writings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, but is a “secular” program, according to a spokeswoman for the church. She said the Narconon proposal and the church’s plans to open a retreat nearby, at the former Hockley Highlands Inn and Conference Centre were “not related.”

Resident Lisa Caissie, who helped organize against the proposal, said she was overcome with emotion when she heard about the sale.

“I started crying, because it’s such a relief,” she said.

Schoenhardt declined to name the buyer or the selling price, but said it was below the $2.9 million asking price for the 150-acre property, which includes five cottages and an outdoor sauna.

Narconon had placed a conditional bid on the property through a holding company in Delaware. It would have needed a zoning amendment to open a rehab facility on the residential property.

Schoenhardt would not comment on the buyer’s vision for the land, but said “a zoning amendment was not conditional on the sale of the property, so it appears he does not need a zoning change for what he plans on doing.”

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