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Planned Parenthood gets OK to build new Brighton clinic but renewed legal battle awaits

A artists rendering shows Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York's new Brighton clinic with varying brick and wood and concrete facade.
Provided image
An artists rendering shows Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York's new Brighton clinic proposed to be built at Westfall Road and South Clinton Avenue.

Planned Parenthood expects to begin work on a new clinic in the town of Brighton later this month.

The nonprofit has quietly secured the property and needed town approvals to end what has been a years-long, at times contentious battle to build a second, permanent location.

But in a last-minute development, opponents said they would go back to court as soon as this week and seek a court order to step them. They filed that lawsuit on Monday.

“It's been really frustrating to be honest with you, the amount of pushback that we get,” said Michelle Casey, president and CEO for Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York.

“There's a lot of landlords that have buildings that would have been a good location for us, that refused to rent to us,” she said, “because we're Planned Parenthood.”

Ultimately, the group returned to the same Westfall and South Clinton site in the Westfall Park Medical Center that it had pursued a couple of years ago.

The clinic on University Avenue will remain. The new facility will be of similar size and replace a clinic that used to be in Greece. Planned Parenthood did a study back in 2019, and found it could serve more people if it moved farther south.

That began a search that alternated between Brighton and Henrietta — where they faced opposition, lawsuits, and inflated construction costs amid the pandemic.

The site at Westfall and South Clinton is fenced today. Planned Parenthood has bought the building that is there now, and has a 100-year lease on the land. The building will be torn down, officials said, and the new clinic built in its place.

Brighton Town Supervisor Bill Moehle said Friday that the necessary town approvals are in place.

Planned Parenthood has operated out of a temporary location in the complex for some time.

“The new location is .. going to be twice the size, as far as family planning rooms and the number of providers that we'll have there," Casey said. "And then we'll also have the ability to do in-clinic abortion services.”

Opponents had sued to block the Brighton clinic in 2021, sent letters to other medical center tenants and spoke out at public meetings. They claimed victory months later and discontinued the suit when Planned Parenthood dropped the idea, citing escalating construction costs.

Planned Parenthood then tried to secure a site in Henrietta, only to get rebuffed by the town board. The group sued and won, but building prices remained too high, officials said.

Casey and her colleagues' continued search led back to Brighton, and they recently completed the town review and approval process without comment from opponents. A spokesperson and lawyer for the the group Brighton Residents Against Violence to Everyone (BRAVE) did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday but wrote in an email over the weekend that a lawsuit raising fresh objections to the project was imminent.

A federal appeals court ruled that a 15-foot protest buffer around the University Avenue clinic only applies to certain people and groups.

"We've gone through all the approvals that we need to go through," Casey said in an interview last week, "so they would be late to the table at this point."

BRAVE claims Planned Parenthood's prior approvals, particularly those from the state, were voided when the agency dropped the Brighton project two years ago. And that the state and Planned Parenthood "cut corners" to get the project moving again.

The resistance Planned Parenthood has faced already has come with significant cost, Casey said.

"We've spent an immense amount of money in legal fees, and doing extra work to be able to locate our clinics,” she said, but declined to provide a specific dollar amount.”And I think that's part of the part of the overall strategy ... if you can't stop something, to try to delay it, make it cost more money, divert money from providing services to people who need them, and that, you know, it's heartbreaking -- for me, anyway.”

If all goes as planned, the clinic should be open by early January.

Expectations are that the clinic – with its proximity to interstates 590 and 390 -- will see a significant increase in patient volume, but not draw patients away from the University Avenue location.

“We did a similar move in the Western New York area where we had a facility that was located up in Niagara Falls, we moved it south of Buffalo. And our patient volumes went up quite a bit ... because it was just more convenient for people.”

And as southern states tighten abortion restrictions it is driving people north to find care.

"I expect that we'll see people from very far away,” Casey said, “because we're seeing that now in the centers that we have.”

Brian Sharp is WXXI's investigations and enterprise editor. He also reports on business and development in the area. He has been covering Rochester since 2005. His journalism career spans nearly three decades.