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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

NO TO NARCONON: Birch Run Township's Zoning Board of Appeals Denies Zoning Interpretation For Proposed “Narconon Birch Run”; 4-0 Vote Halts Greg Hetzer's Effort To Seek Special Use Permit

Narconon Ojai Executive Director, Fabian Padro, claims “75.4 percent success rate” and asserts Narconon Birch Run will target “doctors and lawyers” for treatment at their facility.
The Birch Run Township's Zoning Board of Appeals voted 4-0 during last night's meeting to deny a zoning interpretation requested by Greg and Lori Hetzer, effectively ending the Hetzers efforts to open a Narconon-based residential alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility in their seven-bedroom township home.

Hetzer, along with his wife, Lori, were featured in Rod Keller's report on Tony Ortega's Underground Bunker last November. The Hetzers were represented during last night's meeting by Flint, Michigan, attorney Mark J. Newman. In addition, Saginaw attorney Frank J. Keating of Braun Kendrick represented Narconon, and Narconon Ojai's current Executive Director, Fabian Padro, were in attendance.

Newman recapped the intention by the Hetzers to operate a residential alcohol and drug abuse rehabilitation facility, as permitted, under the Foster Care-Group Home classification of the current Birch Run Township Zoning Ordinances.

Reading from the Hetzer's February 15, 2018 application, Newman stated the facility would offer up to twenty-four adults the opportunity to reside at the Hetzer property for non-medical rehabilitation and receive an array of services including, but not limited to, non-medical detoxification, nutritional support, and life skills counseling.

Newman stated that, prior to being enrolled in the program, all participants receive a physical exam, off premises, from a licensed medical doctor. 

The purpose of this exam, per Newman, is to ensure that the individual can safely withdraw from their use of drugs or alcohol, and do so without the assistance of other drugs, or step-down drugs. 

Anyone that would require drugs or other medication to assist them in their addiction treatment is referred to a different facility, although that process was not outlined during the meeting. 

As such, anyone participating in this program must be physically well and must only be addicted to drugs that can be withdrawn from without the use of other drugs as part of the treatment—a process known in common parlance as “cold turkey”. 

The entire operation would be housed within the home, which has a total of ten bedrooms—seven in the home, and three additional above the attached garage. 

Describing the program as “natural and holistic”, Newman stated the facility would house up to 24 adults and would employ up to 25 people. However, not all employees would be on-site at any one time and, instead would work in shifts, which would include a minimum of two employees, on-site, overnight.

In addition, Newman asserted the adults housed in the facility “would not be allowed to wander”, presumably to allay the concerns of those residing near the Hetzer home.

Greg Hetzer then addressed the Birch Run Township Zoning Board of Appeals. 

Clad in blue jeans and a snug, long-sleeved grey t-shirt, Hetzer related the genesis of his quest: his son's successful treatment at a Narconon facility he called “Fresh Start”.

Using descriptions lifted nearly verbatim from Narconon's “10 Things Your Friends May Not Know About Drugs” booklet, Hetzer asserted that drugs can stay in your body a long time after you take them. He described his son's Narconon experience as consisting of vitamin and sauna treatments, which served to eliminate the drugs “remaining in the fat” in his body. 

Hetzer, in a not-so-Freudian slip, described Narconon's “life improvement courses” as help overcoming life's “ups and downs”, a Scientology course based on the works of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

Hetzer's son spoke briefly, attributing his sobriety to Narconon rehab. While it's heartening to witness anyone, like Hetzer's son, overcoming a drug or alcohol addiction, it's dismaying to hear that person publicly state Narconon has “nothing to do with Scientology”.

Narconon Ojai's Executive Director, Fabian Padro, addressed the Board, revealing that he “was in the process of purchasing the building” from the Hetzers, and would oversee the facility's operation with continuing assistance from the Hetzers. 

Padro stated Narconon has a “75.4 percent success rate”, and claimed potential facility residents would be “screened heavily” before admission.

In addition, Padro (who used his four year stint in the Navy to burnish his credentials) said potential clients would undergo a “criminal background” check, even though he asserted the facility would only target an upscale client base, specifically “doctors and lawyers”.

Township residents, who filled the meeting room, spoke against the petition to the Board.

Focused primarily on negative impact on property value, fears for the safety of young children and elderly residents, one resident even challenged the Hetzer home's inadequate septic system.

No Birch Run Township resident spoke in favor of the zoning interpretation sought by the Hetzers.

In the end, it was a report to the Board by Rowe Professional Services that sealed the Hetzers' fate: a “substance abuse disorder program” did not fall under the township's existing Foster Care-Group Home classification.

Immediately after the Board voted to reject the Hetzer petition, Greg Hetzer, with his wife and son in tow, abruptly left the meeting.

The trio returned several minutes later, just as the Board voted to refer any future additions to current zoning ordinances to the Birch Run Township Planning Commission.

That vote was also approved, passing 4-0.

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