Anti-abortion group permitted to open facility next to Raleigh women's clinic
Posted November 3, 2016 4:37 p.m. EDT
Updated November 3, 2016 4:45 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — In a reversal of a decision made over the summer, an anti-abortion group will be able to open a resource center next to a clinic that provides abortions.
A Hand of Hope ministry, which operates the Your Choice Pregnancy Clinic and provides free pregnancy services, purchased property at 1522 Jones Franklin Road, next to A Preferred Women's Health Center, and wanted to move there from leased space about a quarter-mile away.
The City Council voted unanimously July 5 against a zoning change that Hand of Hope needed, saying the request was inconsistent with the city's comprehensive development plan because it wouldn't be the most efficient use of the property or generate as much tax value as a large, more coordinated office development.
Prior to a vote by the City Council, Hand of Hope had received favorable votes from the Citizen Advisory Council and Planning Commission.
Hand of Hope filed a federal lawsuit in September, arguing that the city violated its First Amendment rights to get a message out to a specific audience and its equal protection rights under the Constitution because city planning guidelines would allow churches, civic clubs and other groups to locate on the property.
On Tuesday, Raleigh’s Planning and Zoning Administrator issued a formal determination that the Hand of Hope Pregnancy Resource Center is permitted to open on the Jones Franklin Road property, saying the facility falls under the "civic use category" of the zoning code. The facility will not provide medical care or treatment to women who come to them, but will provide free information, confidential pregnancy tests, non-diagnostic ultrasounds and testing for sexually transmitted infections.
“We are thankful for the city zoning staff’s review and common sense determination. If a nonprofit civic club like Kiwanis or a religious group like a church can locate at this property, surely we should be free to provide pregnant women free pregnancy resources and share the love of Jesus with them here,” said Hand of Hope Executive Director, Tonya Baker Nelson in a statement.
The determination issued by the Zoning Administrator is subject to a 30-day appeal provision, but an attorney representing Hand of Hope called the decision “a step in the right direction.”
A spokesman with the City of Raleigh said that city code requires that direct mailed notice about the formal determination must be provided to all property owners within 100 feet of the proposed property and Hand of Hope must provide the city with stamped and addressed envelopes. The city had not received those envelopes as of Thursday afternoon. City officials will also post a sign on the property.
Once mailed notice and the sign placement have occurred, the 30-day appeal window begins.