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Debate over Planned Parenthood clinic in Auburn Hills lands in court (Oakland Press)

Published September 8, 2011, The Oakland Press

By Ann Zaniewski of The Oakland Press

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Published: 09.08.11| Updated: 09.09.11

A dispute over a proposed Planned Parenthood clinic landed in court Wednesday, where a judge gave nearby property owners who oppose the facility time to gather more information.

Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan officials said a restrictive covenant on the property they bought on Opdyke Road in Auburn Hills doesn’t prevent them from opening a clinic there. The owners of an adjacent Comfort Suites Hotel disagree and were sued by Planned Parenthood earlier this year.

At one time, Planned Parenthood’s property and the hotel property were owned by the same entity, which agreed, through the restrictive covenant, to limit the use of the property in question to “restaurant, retail or office.”

James Carey, an attorney for hotel owners, the Shri Sai-Krishna Group, L.L.C., said the “office” use permitted under the covenant does not allow medical offices that conduct outpatient surgeries, a reference to abortion procedures. He told Oakland Circuit Judge James Alexander that if Planned Parenthood promised not to conduct surgeries at the facility, the case would be settled.

Attorney Alan Greene, who represents Planned Parenthood, said the organization provides a variety of reproductive health services that are listed on its website and is not going to let its neighbors dictate what it can do. He said Planned Parenthood opening a facility on the site is no different than a pediatrician’s office or other type of medical office locating there.

“Everything we’ve proposed to do is allowed in the zoning ordinance,” Greene said.

Alexander gave Carey 60 days to file an answer to the complaint and find out the regulatory differences between a medical office and Planned Parenthood’s proposed use of the facility.

Planned Parenthood paid $700,000 in November 2010 for the 12,000-square foot building.

In May, Planned Parenthood sued Shri Sai-Krishna Group. The lawsuit accuses the hotel owners of trying to interfere with its lawful use of the property and of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The lawsuit says an attorney for Planned Parenthood asked the hotel owners in October to confirm that medical offices would be an appropriate use under the covenant, and they agreed. It also says an attorney for the hotel sent letters to city and county officials in January expressing concerns that Planned Parenthood was going to develop the property in ways that would violate the hotel owners’ rights.

Carey said the restrictive covenant was designed to protect the rights of the owners of the hotel property.

The proposed clinic has sparked controversy. Abortion opponents who don’t want to see Planned Parenthood at the site recently held a prayer vigil.

One of the vigil organizers, Monica Migliorino Miller, director of South Lyon-based Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, watched Wednesday’s hearing.

“If Planned Parenthood performs abortions in this building, that’s surgery,” she said afterward. “That’s a lot different than a medical office.”

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