Home Local Politics Video: Fairfax City Council Approves New Ordinance Covering Women’s Health Clinics

Video: Fairfax City Council Approves New Ordinance Covering Women’s Health Clinics


A few highlights from last night’s controversial meeting of the Fairfax City council. First, though, you might want to check out a detailed discussion of the proposed zoning regulations pertaining to “clinics, hospitals, medical or dental offices, and related uses” in Fairfax City. Also, according to this:

{The} proposed ordinance would place women’s health centers into the same category as hospitals, surgical centers and urgent care units, and would require clinics to have an expensive “Special Use Permit” as well as limit the locations they can operate in. Just to apply for a Special Use Permit costs at least $4,800 and can take as long as 6 months — and city staff is arbitrarily able to deny or approve the application. What’s worse, the new ordinance gives the Zoning Administrator power to decide exactly the amount of parking required of each clinic, and therefore gives him/her the ability to block a clinic’s approval based on frivolous and arbitrary regulations such as – you guessed it – PARKING SPACES.

Back to the video:

1. Staff discussion (by Zoning Administrator Michelle Coleman) of the proposed amendments starts around 11 minutes in and runs through about 24 minutes.

2. The public hearing begins at about 24:40, with speaker after speaker disagreeing with the proposed amendments and urging that they be voted down. You’ll hear words like “duplicitous,” “arbitrary,” “subjective,” “vague,” “unfair,” “inconsistent,” “complex,” “finagling,” “red tape,” “splitting hairs,” “ideology,” “deeply troubled,” “onerous,” “medically unnecessary,” “disproportionately difficult,” and “TRAP regulations.” The distinction between “offices” and “clinics” is brought up repeatedly, as well as the fact that these women’s health clinics provide a variety of health care services. The public hearing portion ends at 1:08, and the discussion returns to staff and council members.

3. A bit after 1:37, Council member Dan Drummond says he feels Fairfax City is being consistent with other localities, but thinks “the public has raised some valid questions” and this needs some more “fine tuning” and staff work. He says “for that reason, I will not be supporting the motion that’s been made.”

4. The discussion then turns to an exploration of the options and motives for deferring the vote. At 1:39, Mayor Silverthorne says it’s the council’s prerogative to defer the vote, but he’d prefer to have a “straight up-or-down vote,” unless the idea is “truly” to make the ordinance better. Possible deferred vote dates are batted back and forth, with September 24 as one possibility.

5. At around 1:41:45, Mayor Silverthorne says this isn’t “politically correct” to say, but after asserting that he’s “one of the more liberal” mayors in “the last 50 years,” he says he feels like it makes no sense to have the staff rework this, that the council should have a “straight up-or-down vote,” and that “dragging this out for the sake of additional feedback” won’t resolve the questions out there about this.

6. At about 1:43, Mayor Silverthrone says he doesn’t “appreciate some of the outside groups…NARAL…parachuting into my community” and “spreading some misinformation.”

7. At 1:44:30, the council decides not to move ahead with Dan Drummond’s motion to delay the vote until September 24. A bit later, at around 1:47, the council proceeds to approve the proposed measures on a 4-2 vote. Members in favor are Steven Stombres (R; Eric Cantor’s Chief of Staff), Jeffrey Greenfield (R), Dan Drummond (D), and Michael DeMarco (D). Members against are David Meyer (D) and Eleanor Schmidt (R). Worth noting is that Dan Drummond had said just a few minutes earlier that he’d be voting “no,” but ends up voting “yes.” I don’t get that one at all.

  • From his Facebook wall:

    My Vote on Zoning Amendment

    Some people have been asking for more of an explanation about my vote last night related to the zoning amendment. As I said from the dais, I believed this ordinance has merit because it would allow the public and the Council to have input on where defined medical facilities would locate. It also clarifies language from a 30-year old zoning ordinance, and the nature of these kinds of uses has evolved over time. I strongly believe City Council and the public needed to have a voice in such important matters as they relate to the City of Fairfax, a locality of 6.3 square miles and 23,000 people.

    While I did try to defer it, my efforts were not successful. This was an attempt to find a compromise, but I quickly learned that no compromise was really possible. As my colleagues, Councilman Jeff Greenfield and Mayor Scott Silverthorne rightfully noted, the underlying ordinance – which I supported – would likely stay the same.

    This issue has been cast as one about abortion. In my view, it is not. Instead it is about giving the community and its Council the opportunity to have another layer of review and input. In general, requiring an SUP is not out of the ordinary. We do it for dancing and entertainment licenses, drive through restaurants and in other circumstances. Nor is this ordinance out of keeping with what various other jurisdictions require, although there are variations in how every jurisdiction deals with zoning matters as these.

    In the end, there are those who will continue to look at this issue through the lens of abortion. However, I don’t think that’s what this should be about. I hope others will respect my decision in this matter, just as I respect other people’s views.