by Maria Gallagher
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
September 5, 2004
Richmond, VA (LifeNews.com) — Planned Parenthood of the Blue Ridge is facing opposition in its effort to operate an abortion facility near a Virginia high school.
Albemarle County resident Renae Townsend, who teaches at Albemarle High School, has filed an appeal with local zoning authorities, hoping to force the Dr. Herbert C. Jones Reproductive Health and Education Center out of the area.
Townsend says the special-use zoning permit approved three years ago for a professional office in the neighborhood should not apply to Planned Parenthood.
"This was not the proposal made by the original owner,” Townsend has said. "The owner proposed a low-impact office building. Planned Parenthood is not low-impact.”
The Central Virginia Family Forum, a pro-family group, is supporting Townsend’s efforts to remove Planned Parenthood from the neighborhood.
"I don’t want a building coming in under the guise of something else,” Tobey M. Bouch, a board member for the Central Virginia Family Forum, told the Daily Progress newspaper.
"We don’t think the use now matches with the previous proposed use. We want the wrong to be righted,” Bouch added.
Planned Parenthood performs first-trimester abortions at its office, which is located about a half-mile from the high school. The facility opened about a month ago.
Townsend, who is also a resident of the area, says neighbors are distressed by Planned Parenthood’s presence. She says they are worried about abortion-related protests and depreciation of property values.
"We were never notified,” Townsend told the Daily Progress. "If I had known, I would have been active earlier.”
County supervisors approved a special-use permit for a professional office building to be built in the residential area three years ago. The office was supposed to be occupied by a real estate business.
"Now, it seems that a medical clinic or abortion clinic could come in a residential area under the context of a professional office,” Townsend told the newspaper.
Residents of the area have been converging on Board of Supervisors meetings, lobbying for the special-use permit to be revoked.
A spokeswoman for the county has said the county attorney’s office is now reviewing the appeal and conferring with the zoning administrator.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood says some residents have sent checks and flowers to the organization in response to the controversy.
"We were good neighbors…and we will be in the future,” Planned Parenthood spokesman David Nova said.
Still, opposition to the abortion center goes beyond those who identify themselves as pro-life activists.
"The zoning issue concerns us," Bouch told the Cavalier Daily newspaper. "There are people involved now who are not just pro-life. They think the facility shouldn’t be there because it doesn’t fit the community or the use of the building."