Battle Continues Over Planned Parenthood Permit

By: Autria Godfrey
By: Autria Godfrey

September 12, 2006

Planned Parenthood has come under attack yet again, this time by residents of the surrounding neighborhoods. However, it's not the issue of abortion they're against, they say the facility is not in regulation with the county zoning laws.

According to an appeal filed by Michael Sharman & the neighbors, Planned Parenthood is not within the Albemarle County zoning code for the type of operations they provide.

"Planned Parenthood from the beginning has been in denial that they're in violation of the law. They were in denial that they needed to get a special use permit when they changed the use of the property," Sharman explained.

When a special use permit was first granted for the building, it was intended for commercial use only, which is what Planned Parenthood says they abide by.

"We are a medical office, which falls under the category of professional office, which is permitted within the county zoning laws," Becky Reid of Planned Parenthood said.

However, because a judge ruled that the center was running as a hospital, it no longer meets zoning regulations.

"They claim that we are a hospital when in fact we are not a hospital, and we will never be a hospital," Reid continued.

"That law says it is a hospital operating there on Hydraulic Road," Sharman countered.

However, in a 2004 newsletter, Planned Parenthood's president acknowledged that the facility was built to hospital standards, not those of a medical office, with a few exceptions.

In order to receive a permit to operate as a hospital, Planned Parenthood would need to make several changes, such as increasing the number of entrances and exits from the one they have to accommodate emergency vehicles.

While it could be viewed as yet another anti-abortion battle, those filing the appeal say it's more of citizen's rights.

"What they are offended about is the fact that they were not given a right to make a decision and have their voice heard when this new use came in," Sharman said.

In addition to the facility not keeping with the neighborhood model, which includes two churches and high school that are nearby, those filing the suit also claim this center causes substantial detriment to the adjacent property.

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