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Planned Parenthood dispute due back in court; demonstration planned (The Oakland Press)

Published January 6, 2012 by The Oakland Press.

By Ann Zaniewski of The Oakland Press

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Published: 01.06.12| Updated: 01.09.12

People opposed to a proposed Planned Parenthood clinic plan to hold a demonstration this weekend ahead of a key court hearing.

Officials from Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan and the owners of a hotel disagree as to whether a restrictive covenant prevents Planned Parenthood from opening a clinic on a property in Auburn Hills. Both sides are due to appear Tuesday in Oakland County Circuit Court.

Opponents to the clinic worry that abortions will be conducted there. They will be picketing and praying at the site, located at 1625 N. Opdyke Road, from noon to 1:30 p.m. today. 

“We want to continue to make the public aware that this building could very well be a place where innocent human beings would be put to death,” said Monica Migliorino Miller, director of South Lyon-based Citizens for a Pro-Life Society.

Planned Parenthood officials say they have not yet decided which specific services would be offered at the clinic.

At one time, the Planned Parenthood property and an adjacent property on which a Comfort Suites Hotel sits 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.”

Planned Parenthood contends that a clinic would not violate the covenant. But the owners of an adjacent Comfort Suites Hotel believe that it would.

In May 2011, Planned Parenthood sued the owners of the hotel property, Shri Sai-Krishna Group, L.L.C. The lawsuit accuses them of trying to interfere with its lawful use of the property and of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The lawsuit also says an attorney for Planned Parenthood asked the hotel owners at one point to confirm that medical offices would be an appropriate use under the covenant, and they agreed.

At a hearing in September, James Carey, an attorney for hotel owners, said the “office” use under the covenant does not allow medical offices that conduct outpatient surgeries, a reference to abortion procedures. Attorney Alan Greene, who represents Planned Parenthood, said that putting a Planned Parenthood facility on the site is an allowed use and would be no different than a pediatrician’s office or other type of medical office locating there.

Oakland Circuit Judge James Alexander gave the hotel owners additional time to file an answer to the complaint and research regulatory information.

In December, Planned Parenthood filed a renewed motion for partial summary disposition. In it, it asks Alexander to declare that the covenant does not bar it from using its property for medical office purposes. Planned Parenthood also wants the judge to say that the hotel owners cannot assert that medical offices are prohibited under the covenant.

“We’re hoping there will be a favorable judgment on Tuesday so that we can begin serving the people in Oakland County,” said Desiree Cooper, director of Community and Media Relations for Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan.

The hotel owners want Alexander to rule that medical offices are prohibited under the covenant.

Carey wrote in recent court filings that zoning ordinances and various regulations make distinctions between “office” and “medical office.”

He said the hotel owners believe that the Planned Parenthood wants to use the property as an abortion clinic where thousands of surgical procedures would be performed every year.

“We’re not saying go away because you do abortions,” he said. “We’re saying you can’t do surgeries here. That goes way beyond anything permitted in the restrictive covenant. ...

“We have consistently said (to Planned Parenthood) we will settle this case with you if you promise not to do surgical procedures,” Carey said.

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