What happened at yesterday’s ZBA hearing?

CarnationIf you’ve ever watched an episode of Law and Order or Perry Mason you might have gotten the impression that legal hearings are fast-paced, action packed events filled with snappy zingers and shocking evidence. If you came last night you probably left with a more realistic picture. Legal hearings are filled with details that must be hammered out and quibbling over small, but very important, points of procedure. That’s most of what went on at the hearing at the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) hearing at City Hall. Our attorneys spent most of the hour long hearing fighting for some additions to the record for the case that could be crucial in the coming months. Last night’s meeting was also a great showing of pro-life support here in Aurora. Over 100 pro-lifers came out and sported red carnations as a sign of solidarity. You can read about the meeting as reported in the Daily Herald and in the Beacon. Perhaps one of the best results of the meeting was the clear indications we saw that the ZBA is taking this case very seriously. Corporation Counsel Alayne Weingartz wants to see this case dismissed or moved out of the ZBA. Her rationale for this is twofold:

  1. Zoning appeals must take place within 60 days of the zoning decision. She claims the last zoning decision in this case was in October of 2006. The problem with that is that in October 2007, when Mayor Weisner proclaimed by fiat that Planned Parenthood did nothing wrong and granted them occupancy permits, he made a de facto zoning decision. Therefore, we are well within the 60 day time frame.
  2. Weingartz claims that this is not a ZBA issue because we are contesting the issuance of permits, which is the province of the Building Code Board of Appeals. This is not the case, however, since we are not contesting the issuance of permits but rather the zoning decisions that allowed those permits to be issued in the first place. Permits are a secondary issue.

So, we’re set to argue against Weingartz’ motion to dismiss, right? Wrong. The next wrinkle is that the City has been reluctant to provide information our attorneys have requested to be in the record of the case. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and believe city spokesman Carrie Anne Ergo’s explanation that, with other Planned Parenthood related lawsuits pending, they want to make doubly sure that the right documents get into the right hands. In light of that, our attorneys last night filed a motion to complete the record by adding to it the documents that need to be there for them to do their work. It should be noted that ‘completing the record’ involves the small task of someone at the city making a few more copies. Apparently, at Aurora City Hall, that takes a week. The ZBA heard that motion and set up the following time line that will cover the next month before the actual hearings can begin:

  • 12/05/07 – The city must respond to our motion to complete the record by this date. All documents requested must be submitted by the City and added to the record.
  • 12/07/07 – Our attorneys must respond to the the City’s response by this date. If everyone is in agreement, we proceed.
  • 12/12/07 – On this date, we decide with the ZBA and opposing counsel which documents exactly the city will be required to add to the record.
  • 12/17/07 – The city is required to submit all the documents added on the 12th to the ZBA by this date.
  • 12/24/07 – With the record complete, we can move on to the first order of business. On the 24th we will submit our response to the City’s motion to dismiss the case.
  • 1/2/08 – After the holidays the city will submit their reply to our response to their motion.
  • 1/7/08 – This will be the meeting where the ZBA actually considers the City’s motion to dismiss and hands down a decision.

At this point, there are two ways the case could proceed. If the ZBA accepts the City’s motion to dismiss, things will go straight to State Court where we will appeal the ZBA’s ruling. If the deny the motion, the case will begin in earnest. So now you’re up to date. But as you can see, this is far from over. The next event we’ll be looking for a big pro-life showing will be the hearing on December 12th. The pro-life presence last night was an overwhelming display for the ZBA members, for the City lawyers, and especially for our lawyers who were greatly encouraged by it. They knew things were exciting here, but they had no idea the intensity with which pro-lifers here support this work. Please plan on coming out for the hearing December 12th. Let’s show the City, the ZBA, and our hard working attorneys that We’re Here for Life!

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