The Planning Board Rejected The Abortion Clinic Near Orlando City Hall Even Though Staff Said The Site Had Proper Zoning
By Dan Tracy of The Sentinel Staff
A planned clinic where abortions would be performed will not open near Orlando City Hall, at least not any time soon.
The city’s volunteer planning board voted 10-1 on Tuesday to reject the facility proposed for 1103 Lucerne Terrace by Dr. James Pendergraft, a Maryland obstetrician-gynecologist.
His attorney, Sheila Moylan of Miami, said, “We’re really disappointed, of course.” She was not sure if Pendergraft would appeal.
Tuesday’s ballot came as a surprise since city planners had recommended approval, saying the area was properly zoned for a women’s clinic.
But the board, after listening to nearly 90 minutes of mostly negative comments, went against the project, saying it would hurt property values.
“I cannot knowingly support or invite into Orlando problems,” planning board member Mike Kelsey said. “I find nothing positive for the community by allowing this conditional use.”
Pendergraft, who could not be reached for comment, did not attend Tuesday’s hearing. He chose Orlando, Moylan said, because the city needs another clinic where women’s health services, including abortions, could be provided.
Citing statistics supplied by the state, Moylan said, Pendergraft’s business likely would be “self-supporting” because greater Orlando last year had 7,000 abortions at three clinics. Tampa, with four clinics, had 5,500, she said.
Phyllis Stephens, president of the Orange County chapter of the National Organization for Women, criticized the planning board for putting a halt to Prendergraft’s plan.
“It’s always a bad decision when women are excluded from getting the care they need because there is a very vocal minority out there that is getting its way,” Stephens said.
The vote against Pendergraft came as “absolutely” good news to John Kasper, who makes orthotic devices in a building next door to where the clinic would have operated.
“Overall, I’m very pleased,” Kasper said.
Kasper was one of seven business owners, physicians and abortion opponents who spoke against Pendergraft’s plan. Most of the detractors work in a cluster of offices just west of Orlando Regional Medical Center, less than a half-mile south of City Hall.
They fear Pendergraft’s medical facility would attract traffic congestion, pickets and violence to the area, as has happened to abortion clinics in Melbourne and Pensacola.
“I think it would ruin the good image of the area,” said Dr. Gordon Kiester, an oral surgeon who owns four buildings on Lucerne Terrace.
An appeal, if made, first would go to a hearing officer, who would forward a recommendation to the Orlando City Council, which could accept or reject the suggestion. That process could take up to six months.
Orlando Mayor Glenda Hood, who intermittently followed Tuesday’s planning session by closed-circuit television, promised she would fight the clinic.
“I stand firmly behind the planning board decision,” she said. “This (the clinic) would have a detrimental impact on the surrounding property owners.”
Pendergraft, if turned down by the council, could go to Orange County Circuit Court in an effort to overturn the city ruling, adding additional months to the dispute.