Councillors in a French town have pulled out of a deal to sell land for development after revelations that investors behind the project were Scientologists.
The announcement came just weeks after they had approved the sale of land in the town of Sainte-Feyre, Limousin, in central France — and just days ahead of Sunday’s local elections.
The local council decided on the U-turn at a crisis meeting on Thursday night called by local mayor Michel Villard specifically to discuss the question.
Local paper L’Echo du Centre broke the news of the Scientology connection only last Saturday, and since then the issue has dominated the local political agenda. Now, less than a week on, the sale has been cancelled and the future of the whole project is uncertain.
Cyrille Pincanon, the Scientologist and entrepreneur promoting the development, insisted his church had nothing to do with the project. Such is the movement’s reputation in France, however, the simple fact that he and others involved in the project are Scientologists was enough to kill the deal.
The affair has also caused considerable political embarassment to the local politicians who initially backed the scheme, not the least the mayor, Villard.
The owners of the chateau at Sainte-Feyre had wanted to finance the restoration of the building, a listed historic monument, by building up to 100 homes on nearby land. They had been in talks with the council since March 2011.
The 35-million-euro development was presented as a set of retirement homes for the well-off, with health facilities also part of the plan.
After the region’s heritage watchdogs rejected an initial proposal to build inside the chateau grounds, the developers started talks to buy eight to 10 hectares of neighbouring council-owned land.
Even before the Scientology connection emerged, local paper La Montagne reported last month that questions were being asked about the plan because some of the backers were not known locally.
But councillors in this town of around 2,300 inhabitants were looking at a project that promised to boost the local economy, creating jobs and bringing in another 200 residents to the community.
On February 26 they voted to sell the 8.7-hectare parcel of land required for the project (that’s a little over 21 acres).
Then L’Echo du Centre broke the news of the Scientology connection on Saturday — just a week ahead of the first round of local elections set for Sunday, March 23.
La Montagne followed up with details of the people involved, drawing on Kristi Wachter’s invaluable database, compiled from years of Scientology publications.
The owner of the chateau is Odile Delomez. She has been involved in Scientology at least since 1986, when she is listed as completing the OT Preparations course. (That is some way up Scientology’s Bridge to Total Freedom, so she will have been involved several years prior to that.)
She is also listed in 2004 as a Founding Patron, which means she paid at least $40,000 over what she paid for courses and materials.
Odile Delomez is also listed as having reached OT V by 2005 (so why she couldn’t have just postulated the whole deal is beyond me).
A December 2013 document leaked recently at Mike Rinder’s blog suggests she has also served as an OT ambassador — but that recently she handed over responsibility to someone else as she plans to do a year’s intensive training at Flag (in Clearwater, Florida).
Her name also features on the board of a Paris-registered company SCI De Sainte Feyre, along with a Marc Delomez.
Marc Delomez is also listed in Scientology literature as a Founding Patron in 2004. He completed OT III in 1991. His earliest listing in Kristi’s Wachter’s database is a 1989 mention in the Freewinds magazine, named after Scientology’s cruise ship for high rollers.
Finally there is Cyrille Pincanon, the developer promoting the project. He features in a 2006 edition of Freewinds magazine.
Of the three, he is the only so far to have spoken to the media since the story broke (though not to us: we are still waiting to hear back).
“I assume the fact that I am a Scientologist…,” he told Angélique Bouchet of Radio France Bleu on Monday. “But my religion has absolutely nothing to do with the project.
“I could be Jewish, I could be Christian, I could be Muslim, but that doesn’t mean I can’t promote an economic project. That doesn’t seem acceptable as an argument for the simple reason that at no time has the project been linked with any religion — and or will it be.”
Pincanon is not shy about standing up for his beliefs.
At the 2009 trial of Scientology, he testified as a character witness for one of the defendants — a salesman eventually convicted of fraud.
“I have progressed spiritually,” Pincanon told the court. I am very proud to be in this Church.”
He appreciated Scientology’s emphasis on human rights and its anti-drug message, he added. “Scientology has given me a lot of answers.”
Pincanon is not the only person upset that so much has been made of the Scientology connection. Michel Villard, the outgoing mayor of Sainte-Feyre who is running for another term, is also unhappy.
There had never been any question of the new development being a settlement for Scientologists, he said in a written statement issued on Thursday. He denounced the timing of the revelations as a tactic by his political enemies.
Some opposition politicians however are asking why such a major project was voted through just before the elections. With so much money at stake, the matter should have been left until after the elections for the new administration to consider at its leisure, they argue.
And that, presumably, is just what will happen now — assuming of course those behind the plan still want to press on.
But the issue raises an interesting question: should the simple fact that the major players in a property deal are Scientologists be enough to scupper it?
— Jonny Jacobsen
Posted by Tony Ortega on March 21, 2014 at 14:00
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