Five small businesses near the proposed medical center in Macon that will offer abortions are asking a court to review the zoning commission's decision approving the office, saying protests against the center are affecting their customers and employees.
The Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission approved an application on May 14 that would allow Summit Center PC to use a building at 833 Walnut St. for a medical office. The parent company, Summit Medical Centers, has offices in Atlanta and Detroit. In addition to providing low-cost women's gynecological health services, it would do "first trimester only abortion care and gynecological exams," the application said.
The following week a protest of about 100 people organized by The Saint Maximilian Kolbe Center for Life was held outside the proposed center. Last week, hundreds marched from Rosa Park Square to Walnut Street. The Kolbe center has vowed to have volunteers at the site every day.
A request to review the zoning decision has been filed in the Superior Court of Bibb County by Paul Lader, owner of Lader Insurance Group Inc.; Foshee Holdings LLC, owned by Harold Foshee III; Marion Seckinger, operator of Seckinger Agency; Krunal Patel, who owns an engineering business,; and an unknown plaintiff, referred to as John Doe.
The plaintiffs say the description of the medical office prior to the zoning meeting was inadequate in that it was not fully disclosed what procedures would be performed there. They want the court to decide if proper notice was given and if the hearing was held properly.
Also, traffic and congestion from protesters are affecting their customers and employees, the businesses say, and if the zoning commission approval "is allowed to stand, the beneficial use and enjoyment of the Plaintiffs' properties will be substantially, adversely and permanently affected," the court filing said.
"Plaintiffs... have seen and observed increased protesters, and Plaintiffs have some concern for the safety of their employees and customers," it said. The owners also "have legitimate and real fear for their safety, (and) the use and enjoyment of their property for their various business interests."
The document, which was filed Wednesday, is asking the zoning office to send to the court all proceeding in the case within 30 days.
Attempts Monday to reach Jim Thomas, executive director of the zoning commission, and an official with Summit Medical Centers were unsuccessful.
Ann Beall, director of the Kolbe Center, was unapologetic about the protests disrupting the businesses.
"I would say that, unfortunately for the businesses, it's going to continue to happen and particularly if the clinic opens, it will only increase," Beall said.
"I’ve had conversations with many of the business owners in the vicinity and explained to them our belief and our commitment to life," she said. "The majority of them said that they understand, but they would prefer to be able to run their business without us out there in front of them. But they understand where we’re coming from."
She said John Doe was a business owner that wanted anonymity.
The legal filing is asking the court for an injunction to prevent the commission from issuing a permit for Summit to conduct business, to declare the zoning approval unlawful and null and void, and that Summit has no lawful right to operate on the site.