- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The D.C. zoning board refused Tuesday to hear testimony from community members concerned about the location of a new Planned Parenthood facility across the street from elementary and middle schools.

Led by Diane Conocchioli, the community members had sought clarification from the Board of Zoning Adjustment as to why a public hearing was not held before Planned Parenthood was granted permission to build its flagship health care facility next to Two Rivers Public Charter School.

Nearly a dozen witnesses, including parents who have children at Two Rivers, representatives from the Christian and Muslim communities, and a pro-life attorney, were prepared to present testimony Tuesday questioning the propriety of the location and the lack of transparency.

But the three-member board unanimously voted on to dismiss the complaint before hearing from any witnesses on the grounds that the appeal was not filed on time.

Board member Anita Butani D’Souza said she was “sensitive” to the concerns of the community and considered allowing the hearing to go forward, but ended up voting with her colleagues after board member Robert Miller said it would be a “waste of time” to proceed.

A launch party last week for the 27,000-square-foot Planned Parenthood facility in Northeast was attended by Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat.

Ms. Conocchioli said she has been working with various agencies for more than a year trying to find out why community members were not notified and had no chance to comment before the location of the abortion facility was approved.

She said various bureaucracies were slow to respond to her inquiries, and she only recently found out it was possible to appeal the zoning decision.

Acknowledging that the board was “technically correct” about the timeliness of her complaint, which must be filed within 60 days of the issuance of a building permit, Ms. Conocchioli said a labyrinthine bureaucracy makes it difficult for citizens to seek recourse from their government.

“I did initiate the conversation, I did raise the question of a public hearing right off the bat, and this was the outcome,” Ms. Conocchioli said. “And I just feel so disappointed that the rest of the witnesses were not given the opportunity to testify.”

“To the extent that we were simply seeking a public hearing, we feel totally thrown under the bus,” she said.

Crystal Wright, a conservative commentator who is the author of “Con Job: How Democrats Gave Us Crime, Sanctuary Cities, Abortion Profiteering, and Racial Division,” said she is “not surprised” by the dismissal.

“Community members in that neighborhood should have the right to go before the Zone of Boarding Adjustment and tell them why they don’t want that facility to be there, right across the street from a charter school trying to educate black minds,” Ms. Wright said. “I just think it sends the wrong message. But I am not surprised.”

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