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Thursday, May 5, 2016
In the sparse minutes from a February 12 meeting with neighbors regarding rezoning application Z-7-16, it’s noted that those in attendance had three main concerns about the property: would it be painted, would parking be located out back and would there be general improvements to the overall landscaping?
Two months later, things were a little different. As reported by Paul Specht in the News & Observer, a contentious neighborhood meeting held late last month about the case drew more than 50 residents and resulted in a 30-17 vote in favor of recommending approval of the case.
As it happens, Z-7-16 isn’t just any rezoning case; it’s a rezoning case for Hand of Hope, a Christian Pregnancy Resource Center that wants to move in next door to Preferred Women’s Health Center, an abortion clinic on Jones Franklin Road. Specht wrote a follow-up article regarding the Clinic’s concerns about the potential move.
I have no desire to get into the arguments from either side on an issue that’s far too serious and personal to discuss in this dopey column, so I’m really just going to look at the zoning aspects of the case. For what it’s worth, even the Planning Commissioners won’t be allowed to consider the use when discussing the case.
Of course, there was one slight issue that came up regarding the conflict inherent in this case, and I wanted to share the little bit of information I was able to dig up.
One of the main concerns a lot of neighbors and others in the Raleigh community had was that the new Resource Center would be used as a staging ground for the weekly anti-abortion protests held outside the Health Center.
I wasn’t able to speak with the executive director at Hand of Hope, but I was told by an employee that they, along with any volunteers at the center, are required to sign waivers agreeing to not participate in any anti-abortion protests. It was not, the employee said, their style: Hand of Hope prefers a more low-key approach.
The weekly protests at Preferred Women’s are organized by a ministry of the Hope Baptist Church named Hope Before the Door. The Hand of Hope employee said there was no connection between them and either the church or the ministry, and an extensive look into Hand of Hope’s 990 filings appear to back this up. The filings, which included employee and board member information, turned up no connections whatsoever. While all of the board members appear to be active members in their own churches, none belonged to Hope Baptist Church, as best as we could tell. A message left at Hope Baptist Church was not returned prior to publication.
The property at 1522 Jones Franklin was purchased by Hand of Hope in December 2015 for $309,000. The organization currently leases space about a mile down the road.
Z-7-16 would see the parcel rezoned from Residential-4 to Office Mixed Use. It is surrounded on three sides by Office Mixed Use zoned parcels.
Not much would change for the conventional-style single-family home, first built in 1953, however, should this rezoning go through. According to the rezoning application, an approval would “allow the owners to utilize the existing improvements (with changes to the interior, only) in a professional office and minor medical office capacity.”
Hand of Hope argues in the application that its proximity to other office uses, combined with the fact that it is in line with the City’s Future Land Use Map, means there should be little reason to turn down the case. It does not appear that a transit shelter will be required for the property. It’s also too early to delve into the potential stormwater impacts, because the rezoning application doesn’t detail what variety of landscaping / paving / parking improvements will be made on the land.
The Raleigh Planning Commission is set to discuss this case at their May 10 meeting, which we’ll be reporting on. Following review from the Commissioners, the case will be sent to City Council for approval.