Naperville approves plan for downtown fertility clinic

Naperville approves plan for downtown fertility clinic

April 04, 2012|By Melissa Jenco, Chicago Tribune reporter

Fertility clinic supporter Mindy Koechling of Winfield holds her IVF baby Emily, 3 months, before the start of a Naperville City Council meeting Tuesday. (Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

A proposal for a Fertility clinic in downtown Naperville was approved Tuesday night by the City Council.

The council voted 7-2 in favor of Dr. Randy Morris' proposal to build a two-story medical clinic at the northwest corner of Washington Street and Benton Avenue.

The vote came after several hours of public debate. The proposal drew fire from residents who oppose the facility on moral grounds. But supporters said it would help couples struggling to conceive.

The Rev. Thomas Milota, pastor of the nearby Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, said he does not judge those choosing fertility treatments and feels "every human life has dignity and human worth."

"That means also, however, that we believe those embryos that had not been implanted also have value and worth," he said, expressing concern that those embryos would be discarded.

Dozens of former fertility patients wearing blue shirts turned out to support Morris, an infertility specialist who has proposed the clinic. Brandy Hickerson, who said she has struggled with infertility, said it's a painful problem.

"No little girl grows up hoping for a disease and the horror that comes with it as she's trying to build her family," Hickerson said.

Milota and Hickerson were among 50 people Tuesday who signed up to speak on the proposal.

Although such a facility is a permitted use for the site, the proposal has riled those who object to the procedures that would be offered there.

Morris, a physician specializing in reproductive endocrinology and infertility, said he plans to provide services like fertility medications, insemination, in-vitro fertilization and surgical procedures such as unblocking fallopian tubes.

Morris has said one in every six or seven couples deals with infertility issues.

The state gave Morris a certificate of need for the facility last fall, but he also needed city approval for parts of the plan that deviate from the city's zoning codes, including parking, signs and setback from the road.

Naperville's Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved the project in February.

The use of the site as a medical facility complies with city zoning codes, and officials said they welcomed the proposal. Many also complimented the design.

But at a Council meeting last month, 16 residents spoke against the plans, especially so near churches and schools. Several women suggested the clinic would target North Central College students for egg donation, while others said the clinic would draw protesters to the heart of the city.

In the weeks that followed, proponents joined the debate, saying fertility procedures made it possible for them to conceive.

Before the vote, several members of the City Council questioned whether they have the authority to rule on the proposal outside of basic zoning issues.

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