By RANDY PIERCE, Tribune@heraldpubs.com
Fairview Heights Mayor Mark T. Kupsky said the city has received numerous calls and comments about the relocation of a Planned Parenthood facility from its former space in a strip center at the southwest corner of Frank Scott Parkway and Illinois Route 159.
In a statement, Kupsky said he and the city were not aware of the planned relocation until broadcast news announcements were made about it in early October, Kupsky explained that the owners of the property, Missouri Plaza LLC, applied for building permits through a construction company called Lubin Enterprises, based in Memphis, Tenn., and operating in several Midwest states.
The permits were for the renovation of an existing medical office located at 317 Salem Place, a much bigger location, along the frontage road running mostly parallel to and north of Interstate 64 between Old Collinsville Road and Illinois Route 159.
That property is currently and has been for many years zoned for medical, dental or hospital services. When applying for a building permit of this type, the mayor explained, the property owner is not required to identify prospective tenants.
The permit review process for such business and construction activity is set up to determine if the project meets all city zoning, building and property maintenance regulations.
The Salem Place site met all the legal requirements for a medically related business so there was no requirement that the city’s planning commission, city council, mayor or any other body hold a public hearing on it.
State law, which cannot be overridden by a city in cases like this, allows for services being provided by Planning Parenthood to occur in Illinois as a result of the Reproductive Health Act, Kupsky said. The state itself, rather than the city, regulates and has approval rights for such services.
Kupsky said that Planned Parenthood has followed and is adhering to all of the applicable state laws and local guidelines.
“I certainly understand and appreciate the concerns of our residents and visitors to our city regarding the relocation of this facility within our city,” the mayor said.
In the immediate aftermath of the Planned Parenthood announcement, Kupsky contacted City Attorney Garrett Hoerner who responded that his research indicated the Illinois Reproductive Health Act, which was approved by the state legislature earlier this year, “considers abortion to be healthcare” and goes on to state “every individual who becomes pregnant has a fundamental right to continue the pregnancy and give birth or have an abortion, and to make fundamental decisions about how to exercise that right.”
Hoerner’s correspondence says that under the act, “The state shall not deny, restrict, interfere with or discriminate against an individual’s exercise of the fundamental rights set forth in this act.”
The act further defines “state” to include any unit of local government such as Fairview Heights, even if that city, town or village is a home rule municipality which this one became in 1993 after a referendum asking citizens to approve this status passed by a large margin. Home rule units traditionally have more authority to make their own rules regarding certain matters, outside of state control, but this is not the case with the Illinois Reproductive Health Act.
To underscore that lack of control even more, Hoerner pointed out that the act expressly prohibits local governments from regulating an individual’s rights in regard to what is authorized by the act.
“Essentially,” Hoerner’s report to the mayor concluded, “the city must treat Planned Parenthood like any other medical services provider.”
Kupsky noted that Planned Parenthood’s steps to procure the proper permits for its medical office were all flawless in terms of the city’s application process and added, “Based on a review by staff and our city attorney, there does not appear that there is anything the city can do regarding this relocation.”
With the services being provided protected by the aforementioned state legislation and the compliance with local permitting requirements, the city cannot supersede state law, Kupsky explained.
The Fairview Heights Police Department has been in contact with multiple groups regarding their rights for peaceful assembly at the location and will work with the state police to ensure the safety of everyone on Salem Drive as a pedestrian or motorist, Kupsky said.